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LG Lifeband Touch pictured, though plans unknown

The prolific leaker @evleaks posted an image of the device on Twitter on Tuesday without any further details.

LG Lifeband Touch.

- @evleaks (@evleaks) December 31, 2013

Avid leaker @evleaks is at it again. And this time, the Twitter user has turned an eye to LG.

@evleaks on Tuesday posted an image of what it claims is the LG Lifeband Touch. The tweet didn't include any more information on the Lifeband Touch, but it appears to be a wearable fitness tracker users can place around their wrists. There's also a green circle at the top of the device, which may justify the use of the 'touch' branding.

LG has been rumored to be working on wearable technology for months. So far, however, the company has denied such products are in the works. Based on @evleak's strong track record, however, it shouldn't surprise anyone if the Lifeband Touch makes an appearance at CES next week.

CNET has contacted LG for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

Mobile apps showdown: the best of 2013

The year 2013 saw many such cool apps flooding the market. After going through several of them, we have listed 10 refreshing ones that will add zing to your life.

Back in Touch for iOS/Keep in Touch - for AndroidIf you have a tough time keeping track of all the phone calls you have to make to your loved ones because of your hectic work schedule, these apps are just what you need.

Back in Touch and Keep in Touch apps do exactly as their names suggest: help you stay in touch. The apps enable their users to set call reminders, frequency and follow-up.

It's an excellent way to stay connected to old friends and keep all the promises you made to call them back.

Duolingo: Learn Languages FreeIf you're looking for an easy way to learn new languages but don't have the time or the patience to lug heavy books around, this app is just the thing. And the best deal is that its 100% free!

Duolingo helps you learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English through an interactive method. It starts with two basic levels and then moves on to phrases. It also has a strength meter that indicates how good you have become at the language you have been practicing.

Sleep as AndroidThis app is a boon for those who want to keep a track of their sleep pattern.

It offers various interesting features like sleep graph history, sleep deficit and deep sleep statistics, nature alarms with gradual volume up, alarm playlists from your music and lullabies for pleasant sleep.

You can use it to record details about the time you sleep comfortably and keep a tab on your restless state as well. And it can also track your snores and your sleep-talk!

Noom Weight Loss CoachThere are numerous weight loss apps in the Android market, but this one caught our attention because of its simple interface and effective tools.

The app acts as a personalised coach that helps you form healthy habits through various options like daily tasks, meal logging and exercise tracking. You can keep track of your diet and the amount of calories you burn.

The app also has a forum where people share nutrition tips, recipes, coach task suggestions and also food confessions. It's the perfect motivation you need to pull up your socks and work on making yourself fitter.

Pixlr ExpressIn this age of photo sharing, all of us need a good photo editing app. After checking out several such apps, we zeroed in on Pixlr Express. We liked it for its neatness and wide range of editing options.

It enables users to quickly crop, resize and fix any picture, remove red-eye and whiten teeth. It also provides options to adjust the mood, amplify the tone and add surreal shades to your pictures.

Music Maker JamMusic maker jam is an app for all the aspiring AR Rahmans.

It hasn't got very high high-end features, so don't expect it to create path breaking music. However, the app allows users to choose loops to create songs, make remixes, record and change the tempo.

It takes a while to get the hang of the functions, but once you get around it the app is a lot of fun.

Clean Master (Cleaner)If your phone has become unbearably slow and keeps getting stuck every half an hour, this app is just what you need.

It enables you to keep track of how much RAM is being used by the device, boost phone memory, kill unwanted tasks, delete junk files and manage installed applications.

The interface is simple and very appealing. However, it was the flashy home-screen widget that blew us away.

Poweramp Music PlayerIf you are bored with your regular music player and are looking for an alternate player to listen to your favourite songs, Poweramp is a good option.

It supports all the regular formats, offers a 10 band optimised graphical equalizer and a separate powerful bass and treble adjustment. Other useful features include crossfade and support for lyrics.

The player can be customised using visual themes, including support for external and third party skins. You can also put a smart looking widget offered by the player on your home screen.

Simply DeclareSimply Declare is a great app for iOS users who travel abroad frequently.

The app allows users to add, update and manage their travel purchases. It also enables users to manage shopping merchandise and make a record.

It helps to track the total expenditure and add new items for the trip so that you can keep a tab on declarable purchases. The currency exchange option allows users to keep abreast of the local exchange rate.

Microsoft Remote DesktopLaunched on December 19, this app helps users to connect to a remote PC and access files from almost anywhere.

It offers a multi-touch experience with remote desktop protocol (RDP) and RemoteFX supporting Windows gestures. It also enables access to remote resources through your Remote Desktop Gateway.

Since the app has just been launched users may experience a few glitches. But worry not, the developers are working a way out to chisel the rough edges.

We hope these apps make your life easier in the new year. If you have any other useful apps to share, do post about them in the comment box below.

10 most popular new year's resolutions (with apps to help achieve them)

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 1:26 AM

Below are Americans' most common New Year's goals, according to a Harris poll-and apps that can help you reach them.

1. Lose weightNutrino: Enter your current and target weights and food preferences and this app builds a personalized menu to bring you closer to your goal. (Free; iOS; Android coming soon)

2. Improve your financesBudget Boss: Create a budget quickly and effortlessly-then watch your predicted savings grow with easy-to-read graphs. ($0.99; iOS)

3. ExerciseHuman: Commit to moving at least 30 minutes every day with this simple app, which uses location tracking to measure your activity and notifies you when you're done. (Free; iOS)

4. Get a new jobJob Search: Find open positions near you and submit applications from your phone. (Free; iOS, Android)

5. Eat healthierFooducate: Scan grocery barcodes and get a nutrition grade from A to D with this award-winning app. (Free; iOS, Android).

6. Manage stress betterTake a Break!: Relax with 7- or 13-minute guided meditation audio tracks that let you choose between a voice, music, and nature sounds. (Free; iOS, Android)

7. Stop smokingQuit Smoking: Enter your current smoking habits and this app will design a unique, gradual schedule to wean you off cigarettes. (Free; Android)

8. Improve a relationshipBack in Touch: Import your phone contacts and create settings on how frequently (montly, weekly, etc.) you'd like to touch base with each of them. Then, the app reminds you to give 'em a call at the interval you chose. ($1.99; iOS)

9. Stop procrastinatingFinish: Get stuff done with this app that lets you enter tasks and due dates (with flexible short term, mid term, and long term timelines), then reminds you until the job is done. ($0.99; iOS)

10. Set aside time for yourselfBRB: Need to unplug? Download this app that lets you craft a message that notifies your contacts you're taking a break from your phone, which is shareable via Facebook, Twitter, or text. (Free; iOS)

Mobile Threat Monday: A Look Back

Mobile Threat Monday is such a SecurityWatch institution that it's hard to realize it only began last spring. At first we called it 'Dangerous Android Apps,' and it appeared on Friday, not Monday. We realized, though, that mobile threats aren't limited to Android, so in June we opened it up to all kinds of mobile threats. Altogether we've posted over 30 Mobile Threat Monday columns covering over 60 distinct threats.

Thanks to Our Contributors This column simply wouldn't exist without the contributions of researchers from around the world. We've posted warnings based on alerts from Symantec, McAfee, Lookout, and Kaspersky, among others. However, three major contributors have powered the vast majority of our posts.

Appthority and Bitdefender are definitely the top two. Between the two of them, they've given us more than half of the threats we've reported. F-Secure is another big contributor. Three quarters of submissions come from these, the top three. Thanks, guys!

Android, Android, Android We did take 'Android' out of the column's title, but Android absolutely dominates the field of mobile malware. BlackBerry showed up precisely once, in a warning about the Tube Map Live app, which fails to secure your personal information. This one affected Android too; no surprise there.

Fake Browser signs users up for premium SMS services. It 'looks and feels like a native iOS app,' but in truth it's a mobile website. It doesn't really count as an instance of iOS malware. Poor programming in the Mailbox iOS app allowed execution of arbitrary Javascript; the developers fixed that right away. Only a handful of other columns have dealt with anything but Android dangers.

More Than Malware While we've reported on banking Trojans that steal your money and actual malicious programs that can completely take over your device, the vast majority of threats aren't as actively nasty. Mobile app developers just want to make money, and some have few scruples about just how they do it.

One almost-legitimate way to make money involves advertising. Hook your free app to an advertising network and you can expect a modest income. But some programs go too far, scraping personal information and sharing it with over-aggressive ad networks. Around 20 percent of threat's we've reported involve this sort of abuse.

A more direct way to siphon money out of the victim's pocket involved premium SMS numbers. You've probably seen them connected with charity efforts; text to such-a-number and donate $10 to the relief fund. Premium SMS is pretty well-regulated in the U.S.; not so much in other countries, including Russia and China. Trojanized apps that send premium SMS messages are more prevalent in these countries, and we've reported on quite a few.

Then there are the developers that have no bad intentions, just bad coding skills. Their errors can expose personal data including medical history, passwords, and instant messages. An app that fails to properly secure your personal information can be just as damaging as one that actively steals data.

All Together on the Chorus So, what should you do to stay safe? You could switch to iOS, but if you're an Android user that's probably not what you want to hear. Trojanized or ill-designed apps do sometimes show up in official Android app stores, but unofficial sources are much more likely to be compromised. Stick to the safe stores, and make sure your device is set to reject installations from other sources.

Pay attention to the permissions requested when you install an app. Does that free flashlight app really need to know your location? Many Android security products will double-check permissions for you and offer advice; Editor's Choice avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus is one such, and it's free.

In the U.S. you're less likely to get hit with premium SMS charges, but keep an eye on your bill regardless; it could happen. And of course, keep reading Mobile Threat Monday and SecurityWatch to stay abreast of the latest developments.

NSA can turn your iPhone into a spy, says privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum

'Even worse than your worst nightmares': Jacob Applebaum. Photo: AFP

The NSA can plant malicious software on Apple's iPhone, turning one of the world's most popular smartphones into a pocket-sized spy, according to a leading security expert.

Privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum gave the public an unusually explicit peek into the intelligence world's toolbox at a hacking conference in Germany, pulling back the curtain on the US National Security Agency's (NSA) arsenal of high-tech spy gear.

Back door: The NSA can turn the iPhone into an eavesdropping device, a security expert says. Photo: Reuters

The independent journalist and security expert said on Monday that the NSA could turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and use radar wave devices to harvest electronic information from computers, even if they weren't online.

Appelbaum told hundreds of computer and technology experts gathered at Hamburg's Chaos Communications Conference that his revelations about the NSA's capabilities 'are even worse than your worst nightmares'.

'What I am going to show you today is wrist-slittingly depressing,' he said.

Even though in the past six months there have been an unprecedented level of public scrutiny of the NSA and its methods, Appelbaum's claims - supported by what appeared to be internal NSA slides - still caused a stir.

One of the slides described how the NSA can hide malware in the iPhone, giving US intelligence agents the ability to turn the smartphone into a spying device.

Another slide showcased a futuristic-sounding device described as a 'portable continuous wave generator', a remote-controlled device which - when paired with tiny electronic implants - can bounce invisible waves of energy off keyboards and monitors to see what is being typed, even if the target device isn't connected to the internet.

A third slide showcased a piece of equipment called NIGHTSTAND, which can tamper with wireless internet connections from up to 13 kilometres away.

An NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, said she wasn't aware of Appelbaum's presentation, but that in general would not comment on 'alleged foreign intelligence activities'.

'As we've said before, NSA's focus is on targeting the communications of valid foreign intelligence targets - not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to the US government.'

Apple has not yet responded publicly to the allegations.

The documents included in Appelbaum's presentation were first published by German magazine Der Spiegel on Sunday and Monday.

Appelbaum and Der Spiegel have both played an important role in the disclosures of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but neither has clarified whether the most recent set of slides came from Snowden.

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Microsoft OneNote App Updated With Shortcuts, Sharing Integration, A Widget ...

Microsoft isn't really known for designing great apps for Android, but whoever is in charge of the OneNote app is going above and beyond. The UI has been cleaned up dramatically recently and the newest update includes some solid feature additions. This could be - dare I say it - a good Microsoft app on Android.

Here's the full changelog from Redmond:

The sharing referred to in the changelog is actually integration with Android sharing intents. So in any app that has the native sharing menu, you can add content directly to OneNote. Whatever you have in OneNote will be easier to access now with home screen shortcuts to any individual note or notebook. There's also a widget for quickly adding notes. Users of Samsung devices will be happy to see full support for Multi Window Mode in this update too.

If you're deeply into the Microsoft ecosystem at home or work, OneNote seems like a solid note taking option.

New malware roosting place: Inside your SD Card?

A pair of security researchers have figured out how to subvert tiny controller chips in flash-memory storage devices, an approach that could expose people's private data.

(Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

Security researchers have found a way to hack SD Cards, the most common form of flash-memory cards used to store data mobile phones and digital cameras, and run software that intercepts data.

Andrew 'bunnie' Huang and Sean 'xobs' Cross disclosed the approach Sunday in a blog post and talk at the Chaos Computer Congress (30C3). With the attack, a person could run malicious software on the memory card itself. That's because the cards have tiny built-in computers called microcontrollers that are used to oversee the details of data storage.

The result is a 'perfect setup for a man-in-the middle attack,' Huang said in a video of the talk. The current approach to flash-memory storage has 'invited someone to go sit in between our data, and we just trust them to do whatever they want to do.'

In a man-in-the-middle attack, someone intercepts data that's being transferred from one location to another, potentially scrutinizing or modifying it. Huang and Cross believe their attack could be used to secretly copy data, to modify sensitive data such as encryption keys, or to subvert authentication processes by substituting an unauthorized file for execution instead of the actual file that was authorized.

The approach works in principle not just with SD Cards, where the researchers demonstrated their approach, but also with other flash-memory devices such as SSDs (solid-state drives) used in place of traditional hard drives in personal computers and eMMC (Embedded Multimedia Controller) storage used in mobile phones.

To get the approach to work, the researchers had to reverse-engineer proprietary workings of the controller chips. First they figured out how to get a microcontroller to accept and then run new firmware -- a tiny operating system, in effect. Then they figured out the chips' actual proprietary commands.

The specific vulnerability Huang and Cross describe doesn't apply to all flash-memory devices because it's dependent on the specific microcontroller used. However, they believe the approach is generally effective since all flash devices rely on such controllers to figure out how to work around bad memory cells in flash-memory systems.

Cross and Huang also point out a little upside of the work: The hardware hacker community now has access to microcontrollers that are much cheaper than typical hardware such as Arduino systems. The input-output speeds of an SD Card might not be fast enough for many purposes, but they could be handy for data logging on Net-connected sensors, for example.

'An Arduino, with its 8-bit 16 MHz microcontroller, will set you back around $20,' Huang wrote. 'A Micro-SD card with several gigabytes of memory and a microcontroller with several times the performance could be purchased for a fraction of the price.'

(Credit: Andrew 'bunnie' Huang)

Netflix knocks off a buck for standard

Singletons catch a break, with new plans for 1 screen viewers

Video streaming service Netflix had cut its monthly subscription fee by a dollar for those only watching on a single screen, if they're also content with standard definition content.

The new Single User plan comes in at $6.99 a month, compared with the $7.99 a month the company is asking simultaneous viewing on two screens and HD content, where available.

The lower price point, which is currently only available to new subscribers, offers a reward for those users consuming less bandwidth and hence costing Netflix less money.

'This is just because we want to test it out among a group,' a Netflix customer service rep told AdWeek. '[We] will definitely offer it on a wider basis.'

Bandwidth hogs

Just last month the on demand giant attempted to combat the rampant password sharing by introducing a family plan on which four screens could be used simultaneously for $11.99 a month.

The company recently surpassed 40 million monthly subscribers as it seeks to broaden into top level, HBO-style original content with hit shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Recent reports have suggested that, between them, Netflix and YouTube account for half of all peak-hour download traffic consumed in the United States.

Netflix boasts the lion's share of that 50 per cent, with Sandvine estimating the company racks up 31.62 per cent of downstream traffic. That's compared to Hulu's measly 1.29 per cent.

Via SlashGear

Video: Google chairman Eric Schmidt shares his predictions for 2014

Mobile, mobile and more mobile. Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt might not have a buzzy catchphrase for it like 'post PC era,' but he is certainly on board with late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs's line of thinking: the future is mobile, and the future is now. 'Everyone is going to have a smartphone,' Schmidt said during a segment for Bloomberg TV in which he shared some predictions for the technology space in 2014. 'The fact that so many people are connected to what is essentially a super-computer means a whole new generation of applications around entertainment, education, social life... those kinds of things.'

'The trend has been that 'mobile was winning,' ' Schmidt continued. 'It's now won.' He added that smartphones and tablets are already outselling traditional PCs.

The Google exec also said that the biggest disruption we already can be sure about will be the emergence of more sophisticated machine intelligence, which will change business globally by giving them faster access to better data about their customers. The biggest question mark when it comes to 2014 disruptions will likely come from the field of genetics, and Schmidt expects some serious advancements in the coming year.

The full video from Bloomberg TV's interview with Schmidt follows below.

Mobile App Growth Is Now In DECLINE

For those of you who believe the mobile economy is still in gold rush/bubble territory - an industry whose greatest growth years are in front of it - think again.

Flurry, one of the larger mobile ad companies, measured device activations and app download traffic over Christmas and discovered that Christmas Day - which usually gets a huge spike in activation and download activity - is increasingly becoming just like any other day in AppLand. Because we all have mobile devices already, the Christmas spike for new apps and new devices is getting smaller and smaller

Here's what that spike on Christmas Day looks like when indexed, where a score of 1 equals a regular December day:

Note that for the first time, app downloads on Christmas Day were less than twice what they are on a regular day.

Flurry measured activity across 400,000 apps globally:

The slowing growth rates and smaller Christmas Day app download spike signal market maturation. Many consumers in Western Europe and English-speaking countries -- large mobile markets where Christmas is a big holiday -- already have a smartphone and / or a tablet. Fewer people are coming online with mobile for the very first time. Consumers who are on second, third or fourth devices have apps that they like and trust, and while they still download new apps, there isn't much more impetus to do so on Christmas than any other day when they have a little downtime.

Now here's what the growth of Christmas app downloads looks like in percentage terms:

Download growth on Christmas is only 11% greater this year than it was last year. Previously, download growth was 90%. The market is still growing, in other words, just much more slowly.

Only media app downloads are still growing. Growth in social and lifestyle is in decline - which is to be expected. How many more Facebooks do you need?

Join the conversation about this story ' See Also: SEE ALSO: Flurry CEO Says IPO Is Inevitable As Its Mobile Ad Reach Overtakes Google's

iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C Pre Orders In China Are Underwhelming Thus Far

iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C Pre Orders In China Are Underwhelming Thus Far

By Tyler McCarthy | Dec 30, 2013 04:29 PM EST

Recently Apple and China Mobile, the world's most popular and largest mobile service provider, cut a deal to offer the iPhone through China Mobile's service. Now, initial pre-orders for Apple iPhones are in and the results are surprisingly underwhelming.

According to Investor's Business Daily, early reports show that China Mobile iPhone orders are lagging compared to what other carriers experienced when they began selling the flagship smartphone from Apple.

'We think China Mobile's pre-orders for Apple's iPhone 5S/5C reached about 100K (with contract) in the first two days since pre-orders started, compared with 120K pre-orders from China Unicom (CHU) and 150K pre-orders from China Telecom (CHA) back in September,' wrote Wedge Partners analyst Jun Zhang. 'Unlocked iPhone 5S pre-orders added another 150K in the first day, compared to 400-500K pre-orders when the unlocked iPhone 5S initially launched in China in September.'

Apparently, the addition of China Mobile as an iPhone distributor has stalled some sales of the device with other carriers. China Mobile won't actually offer the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C for retail sale until Jan. 17 however, preregistration began Wednesday.

'It is clear that China Mobile's pre-order activities have affected other channels' iPhone 5S/5C sales,' Zhang wrote. 'Specifically, we believe iPhone 5S/5C sales dropped about 35% since China Mobile announced its iPhone deal from the week that pre-orders started.'

With China Mobile now on board to distribute the iPhone, Apple is expected to sell 2.8 million to 2.9 million iPhone 5 series units per month in Q1, up from 2.7 million to 2.8 million per month.

Wedge Partners does not predict the increase sales to boost Apple's market share. It believes Apple will sell 34 million iPhones in China in 2014, giving it 9 percent smartphone market share. In 2013 it is forecast to sell 33 million iPhones in China for 10 percent market share.

Apple had a strong presence in China back in 2011 with 43 percent of the market share. However, that dipped to 16 percent as lower cost Android operating system phones from Google made their way into the Chinese market.

Apple has reportedly acquired two new patents that will help it compete with some feature and technology found on some Samsung products like the Galaxy Note II.

Apple iPhone 6 Rumors: New Phablet Dubbed iPhone 6 Air [VIDEO]

First Posted: Dec 30, 2013 03:06 PM EST

Apple fanatics can't get enough of the iPhone. Bloggers everywhere are already predicting what Apple has in store for the iPhone 6, which many are now calling the iPhone 6 Air.

Rumors claim that the next iPhone will feature a bigger screen but will still be thin and manageable, making it a 'phablet,' or a tablet and phone combination. Lately, however, bloggers say that the smartphone will be so thin that it will be called the iPhone 6 Air.

Bloggers' predictions of the iPhone 6 Air's screen range from AppAdvice's 4.5-inch antiglare display to the more popular rumor of a 5-inch screen.

Some have developed design concepts for the iPhone 6 Air based off of Apple rumors. Fuse Chicken predicts that in order to achieve maximum screen size, the iPhone 6 will lose its home button and replace it with a touchscreen feature. says that the iPhone 6's touchscreen home button will also have the ability to adjust the phone's volume, lock the screen, activate SIRI and perform other functions.

Currently, the Vico X3 is the world's thinnest smartphone, reports. The Android phone, which is sold in China, is 5.75-millimeters wide, but weighs more than the iPhone 5s (112 grams) at 150 grams. The iPhone 5s is 7.6 milimmeters wide, so Apple has a long way to go in order to create the thin phablet that Apple users are beginning to expect.

Fuse Chicken sets the iPhone 6 Air at just 4.5 millimeters wide. Fabrizio Bianchi, Italian designer, and Martin Hajek, also believe that a larger-screened and thinner iPhone 6 can be achieved by stretching the screen to the entire length and width of the phone.

AppAdvice believes that the iPhone 6 will be 6 millimeters wide. It also predicts that the iPhone 6 Air will feature a 20 megapixel camera equipped with dual LED flash and stabilizer, as well as a long-awaited SD card slot.

Check out some videos of the iPhone 6 Air concepts below:

Americans Paying More For Worse Internet

Despite higher prices for customers the United States only ranks 35th when it comes to bandwidth capacity.

Despite the fact that a lot of people still just it use it to check Facebook and watch naked people doing naked things, the internet has also been a useful tool for the growth and development of economic, social and educational opportunity around the world. No one would blame you, in turn, for expecting the United States, an economic superpower and the birth place of the internet itself, to have the best broadband service in the world. That being the case, it's been revealed that not only are U.S. broadband services lagging behind other countries, but that American citizens are actually paying more money for slower speeds.

The World Economic Forum when comparing bandwidth capacity, ranked the U.S. 35th out of 148. Other studies have also placed the United States at being in anywhere from 14th to 31st place when it comes to average connection speeds. In other words, while we're not at the bottom of the barrel, we're also not the cream of the crop either. In fact, in many cases, the broadband services of our cities is drastically slower than what's available overseas. For instance, Riga, the capital city of Latvia, currently boasts an average connection speed of about 42 megabits. Comparatively, the much larger American city of San Antonio has an average connection speed of only 16 megabits. The biggest kicker is that internet service in Riga costs only about a quarter of what it does in San Antonio.

This is a trend that, with a few exceptions, repeats itself across the breadth of the United States. While it might seem like a non-issue when you consider that 10 megabits is the current standard for speedy internet, many believe our lagging broadband might be stifling economic growth. The Obama administration, for instance, stated earlier this year that job and wage growth in the modern age all but demands 'the delivery of fast, affordable and reliable broadband service to all corners of the United States.'

Unfortunately, many believe that it will take direct action from the U.S. government to spread internet access that's comparable in quality and price to what's available in places like Riga. '[Internet access is] something that no neighborhood or private company would have an incentive to provide on its own to everyone at reasonable prices,' said Susan Crawford, a professor of law and former technology adviser to the Obama administration. In other words, when private companies can already charge us a bundle for poorer service, why would they do anything else?

Source: NY Times

Fitbit's latest iOS update turns the iPhone 5S into a fitness tracker

Fitbit has updated its iOS app with a new feature called MobileTrack, which promises 'basic' activity tracking on iPhone 5S even if you don't currently own a Fitbit device. MobileTrack likely taps into Apple's M7 motion coprocessor - exclusive to the iPhone 5S (and new iPads) - which keeps track of a user's movements and allows easy retrieval of that data without sacrificing battery life. For Fitbit, direct on-device tracking serves as a powerful counter punch to other iOS fitness apps that require no extra hardware.

It's also an enticing way to bring new customers into the Fitbit ecosystem; users can sample Fitbit's app before spending money on a dedicated tracker. Nike has adopted a similar strategy with the launch of Nike+ Move for iOS. The app offers an easy way to get started with Nike's fitness platform - even if you're reluctant to spend $150 on a FuelBand. In both cases, the hope is that users will eventually buy into the more advanced hardware. To see what else is new in Fitbit's latest iOS update, head over to the App Store now. You can use your iPhone 5S as a Fitbit thanks to the company's latest iOS app update

Archos Begins Teasing New Products for CES – Including an Activity Tracker ...

Archos isn't usually at CES, but this year they appear to be making the trip to Las Vegas. Archos has just given us a teaser as to what to expect in Las Vegas next week. Archos has a new range of connected devices they will be showing off. That includes a few health trackers and smartwatches that will be at the Consumer Electronics Show next week.

This new array of 'Smart Home' hardware includes a miniature camera, motion ball, weather tag, smart plug and movement tag, all of which will probably be purchased individually for a personalized setup. They will all be controlled with the Archos Smart Home app for iOS and Android, or a new 7-inch Smart Home tablet, which looks like a simple white slate running Android.

Archos does say that they will be unveiling their weather station during CES, which will be able to measure the surrounding temperature, C02 Levels, humidity, environmental noise and atmospheric pressure. The device will also need to be paired with a separate app for recording, tracking and visualizing captured data.

The company is planning to also debut a new set of scales at CES. Which can measure body shape, weight and body fat mass for up to four different users. Additionally it has an activity tracker, with the usual plethora of exercise-related metrics, including footsteps and calories burned. Finally, Archos is also showing off a blood pressure monitor, in addition to a new smartwatch line up with a 'pebble-like design' that will start at around $82 USD that will support both Android and iOS.

This is some pretty big news from Archos. It looks like they are taking the whole wearables thing to a whole new level next week in Las Vegas. I'm really interested to see their smartwatches though. Especially if they are starting at $82. That's cheaper than any other smartwatch we've seen in the past year or so from Pebble, Sony, Qualcomm or Samsung. It's going to be interesting to see what it can do.

Alex has been an Android user since the Motorola Droid back in 2010. He's been a huge Android fan ever since. He's currently sporting a Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 along with whatever device he has in for review at the time.

LG's webOS smart TV said to retain card

Following a report from earlier this month that claimed that LG will finally show off its webOS-powered television at CES 2014 next month, some additional details of LG's plans have made their way online. A source speaking to The Wall Street Journal says that LG's webOS TV will feature the same card-based user interface that webOS has been known for since its inception. Interestingly, the tipster went on to claim that LG could end up developing webOS and using it with its other electronics, including smartphones.

It's been quite a while since we've seen any new webOS products, so it's kind of exciting to hear that LG will be taking the wraps off of its webOS-powered TV next month. That's especially now that we've gotten word that LG's flavor of webOS will retain the card-based navigation system that is one of the platform's trademark features.

Perhaps even more intriguing than LG's webOS TV, though, is the possibility that the Life's Good crew will continue work on webOS and perhaps even use it on future smartphone hardware. Despite the fact that the platform was pretty well-received by critics, webOS never gained much traction with consumers and eventually met an abrupt end when HP announced that it'd be discontinuing operations on webOS hardware in late 2011. Obviously webOS would have a lot of ground to make up to catch up with the likes of Windows Phone and BlackBerry, to say nothing of the gap between it and Android/iOS, but it'd definitely be interesting to see what kind of webOS hardware LG could cook up and how the platform would perform when given a second chance.

What do you think of webOS? Would you consider checking out an LG-made webOS phone if the company were to come out with one?

Apple, Samsung resume negotiations over patent royalties

Global electronics heavyweights Apple and Samsung are said to have renewed efforts to peacefully resolve their years-long legal battle over Samsung's infringement on Apple patents before the parties head back to court next year.

The talks do not yet include Apple CEO Tim Cook or Samsung mobile chief Shin Jong-kyun but are progressing, according to the Korea Times. Apple reportedly wants more than $30 per device from Samsung, while the Korean conglomerate prefers a patent cross-licensing agreement that would grant access to Apple's deep portfolio of design and technical patents.

After Apple's landmark victory in a case that resulted in damage awards of nearly $900 million, the two companies are set to meet in U.S. Federal Court again in March, and presiding Judge Lucy Koh has urged both sides to come to an agreement before that trial begins. Samsung believes Apple's current request is 'too much,' according to the paper, but Apple is said to be flexible in its demands.

An official at Korea's Fair Trade Commission told the Times that 'as far as I know, the companies recently resumed working-level discussions toward the signing of a potential deal. They are in the process of narrowing differences over royalty payments.'

Apple and Samsung have been attempting to settle their differences and end their extensive worldwide legal battle for nearly two years. Cook has expressed a preference for resolving the disputes amicably, saying that he has 'always hated litigation' and that 'if we could get to some kind of arrangement where we could be assured that [a guarantee against future patent infringement is] the case, I highly prefer to settle versus battle.'

Last year, Apple and Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC settled their own patent dispute with a 10-year licensing agreement said to cover all current and future patents. 'We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC. We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation,' Cook said then in a succinct statement.

Top 10 Big Data Stories Of 2013

Big data equals big opportunity -- and a surplus of hype. Catch up on the big data articles that interested readers most in 2013.

(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Big data ruled as one of the most popular tech topics of 2013, drawing reader interest along many different angles of coverage. Whether focused on careers and education, emerging platforms and technologies, or real-world use cases from healthcare to celebrity social networking, our big data coverage during the last year drew millions of page views.

For a look back at what you may have missed, here's our list of the top-ten big data headlines of 2013.

1. Big Data Analytics Master's Degrees: 20 Top Programs. Our detailed guide to well-known and emerging masters programs specifically targeting the big data analytics talent gap.

2. 7 Big Data Solutions Try To Reshape Healthcare. From Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, leading institutions and technology providers are applying big data to healthcare challenges in innovative ways.

3. 5 Big Wishes For Big Data Deployments. The industry made progress on a couple of these challenges in 2013 -- including SQL-on-Hadoop and stream processing -- but simplified deployment, management, and analysis remain works in progress.

4. Big Data's Surprising Uses: From Lady Gaga To CIA. Lady Gaga's manager created her social network site by mining the singer's 31 million plus fans on Twitter and 51 million plus on Facebook. Now check out the eight other surprising uses covered in this image gallery.

5. Microsoft's Big Data Strategy: An Insider's View. In this in-depth interview, Microsoft executive Dave Campbell outlines plans for Hadoop, machine learning, high-performance computing, and data and analytic offerings on Azure.

6. Big Data Career Switch: 4 Key Points. Looking to retool your skillset to land a job in data science? Beware these issues as you consider university programs.

7. IBM And Big Data Disruption: Insider's View. IBM's Bob Picciano, general manager of Information Management, talks up five big data use cases and Hadoop-driven change -- and slams SAP Hana and NoSQL databases.

8. NoSQL Vs. Hadoop: Big Data Spotlight At E2. This preview article about a panel discussion at the E2 conference seemed to strike a nerve. The premise: Hadoop is too often seen as a panacea while NoSQL databases are the unsung heroes. Do you agree?

9. Big Data Debate: Will Hadoop Become Dominant Platform? Well-known experts Dave Menninger of Pivotal and James Kobielus of IBM square off on the question of whether Hadoop will become the hub from which most data management activities will either integrate or originate.

10. Big Data: A Practical Definition. Today's hazy definitions don't clearly illustrate big data's benefits. A Hortonworks exec offers a pragmatic alternative.

Doug Henschen is executive editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor-in-chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor-in-chief of Transform Magazine, and executive editor at DM News. There's no single migration path to the next generation of enterprise communications and collaboration systems and services, and Enterprise Connect delivers what you need to evaluate all the options. Register today and learn about the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. Register with code MPIWK and save $200 on the entire event and Tuesday-Thursday conference passes or for a Free Expo pass. It happens in Orlando, Fla., March 17-19.

There's still plenty of debate about just what big data means and whether it will turn out to be an overplayed or underplayed topic where the future of technology is concerned. In our view, data has always been invaluable to effective decision making, and the accuracy of decisions will only improve as we apply more data to important questions. We'll be there to follow the important big data advances in the year ahead. Happy New Year!

Why Google Glass is the most personal tech you'll never own

commentary With tablets and televisions safely in the 'shared tech' category, the still unsettling Google Glass extends the nature of 'personal tech' to a whole new level.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CBS Interactive)

I'll start with an admission: my adventure with Google Glass began with simply sheer, unremarkable curiosity.

On a cold fall Sunday morning in New York's Lower West Side, I walked into the world-famous Chelsea Market and made a beeline for an easy-to-miss elevator up to the eighth floor. I was there to collect about $1,600 worth of gadgetry that I knew may never make the light of day in its current incarnation.

For the past few weeks, I have bridged man and machine with Google's latest creation. This wearable technology isn't new, and it isn't exactly original in its design or concept: we've seen it in science fiction for years. But the burgeoning sensation of 'what's next' led me to dig deep into my wallet to own something in this brand-new and disruptive category of gadgetry.

Inside the Glass prism Unlike a regular set of glasses, Google Glass' micro-display resting above your line of sight takes prime focus. For regular eyeglass wearers, a new pair may feel intrusive and attention-grabbing at first but over time feels natural and a part of you.

Wearing Glass is an entirely different feeling. It takes time for Glass to become a natural and logical extension of what you see and how you interact with the physical world in front of you.

Though it's not often someone on the street of Manhattan makes eye contact with you, it's nevertheless an excruciatingly awkward feeling knowing full well you have an unfamiliar and new device on your head. With Glass, I was enveloped with shyness and coyness, and my confidence rapidly melted away.

It was at almost every public-facing moment (and even with the comfort of our own nerdy newsroom) I was always looking in and thinking how silly I looked. But unlike a regular pair of glasses that become a part of you, the exo-perspective of how one looks to others, which many rarely consider, never goes away.

There was a silver lining: Glass quickly begins to negate other behaviors that almost every smartphone owner in the Western world suffers incessantly: how many times in a day do you pull out your smartphone to check if you have any messages? A dozen or two -- maybe even three? Probably significantly more in fact.

In moments when you're bored, or waiting for someone, or avoiding an awkward moment, or consciously checking in or sending your status -- it's almost subliminal.

With Glass, it's always there. You're conscious of it at all times. It doesn't slip away or blend in, and it's obscurely addictive. Not only is it always at your beck and call, it's quite literally always on -- in your eyesight, in the front of your mind, and physically always pressing gently against your temples.

The content 'cocoon' There are two physical sides to Glass: the prism display that you see, and the odd object that others see on you. Unlike a smartphone that can be looked upon by several people at the same time, Glass cocoons you in a virtual reality of your own content and communication.

While you're encouraged by the device to speak to it as though it's your head-mounted personal assistant, you aren't forced to 'OK Glass' every command. The eyeglass is navigable by tapping and swiping the motion sensor in the device's arm.

(Credit: Zack Whittaker/CBS Interactive)

There are times when you can and must talk to Glass -- dictating e-mails or text messages are the most common example. But one concern never goes away: the personal privacy factor. In spite of the content cocoon you're enclosed in, it isn't watertight because your messages can be heard by others.

The bone-conducting speaker that reads back your messages directly into your head tingles your temple with a subtle, but the vibration isn't loud or intrusive -- but it can be difficult to hear callers or read-aloud text above a rabble in a room.

From the outside in, I am just a man on the street talking to himself. It still takes a lot for others looking at Glass wearers to grasp exactly what this device can do. If the device were any smaller or more discreet, any distrust of its capabilities would only deepen.

It knows (nearly) everything One of the few things Glass doesn't seem to know is your name. But it knows the more personal things in your life, such as what time you're flying out to London for the holiday season.

Glass piggybacks off the data connection of your Android smartphone or your iPhone when you're out and about, but it has the capability to hop on Wi-Fi networks independently. Regardless of where it finds its connectivity, it gets every shred of data and more through its tethered Google account access. It knows flight times from your e-mail messages, the weather at your location, where's good to eat nearby, and more.

It's not just a logical extension of your smartphone. It is de facto your smartphone.

A smartphone has almost every shred of your data, but it rarely sparks a user's surprise. You knowingly put your e-mail, your social networks, and your contacts and other information on your phone, but then it just sits there. We often forget how much information that we store on our phones.

I don't remember telling Glass when my flights were, but somewhere along the line -- in e-mail or on a social network -- I did, and it knows.

(Credit: Zack Whittaker/CBS Interactive)

In fact, Glass has deep Google Now integration that throws up 'cards' whenever it may help. On the morning I wrote this, I knew I had my flight, but like magic a message appears with terminal information and live departure status. I walked around the terminal and, behold: a place to grab a coffee and somewhere to buy a slice of cake. It's not beyond the realms of just walking around and killing time, but a week with Glass makes a smartphone feel somewhat archaic.

The fact that this wearable technology sits within plain sight makes interfacing with it feel closer and more interactive. By that, the reality that your data is visual, it's always there, and it's available as and when you want it.

It's an unprecedented visual insight into how much data you actually have stored in the cloud (and what can be done with it) by a company whose product doesn't even know your name -- even if you know its. That's a little disconcerting, if not borderline scary in the post-surveillance disclosures world.

There's a reason why eyeglass tech hasn't taken off yet You've probably seen these wearable glasses before in 'Star Wars' or 'Star Trek' or something similar.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CBS Interactive)

But ' The Terminator' and those shades that the cyber-Schwarzenegger wore probably provide a far more realistic example of what Glass is. (Except without the death and the killer robots.)

Put something -- or anything -- on your face where people can see it and they will stare, even if they've seen it before. It's difficult not to look, frankly, particularly if we're genuinely intrigued and show interest into what something is. It's a learning process, and education cures ignorance.

But we're just not there yet. As smartphones slowly became the norm, so did the privacy situation surrounding plug-in and embedded cameras in devices all shapes and sizes. It took a while for society to adjust -- though that process was significantly accelerated when we overcame our concerns and realized we could share our cat photos with the world. Particularly in the Western world, we got there in the end.

Because Glass is so far removed from what we see as natural, society will have a great deal of work to do before we can ethically and culturally accept the reality that we are already to some extent part man, part machine, the fact that we are already vastly complemented by technology.

This is not to say it won't happen. But it will take a long time until we as humans feel safe enough to go outside our collective societal comfort zone.

This story originally appeared as 'Google Glass: The most personal piece of tech you may never own' on ZDNet. It is the first in a five-part series on Google Glass.

7 Mistakes Microsoft Made In 2013

This was a pretty good year for Microsoft with some big customer wins. But these seven missteps were just dumb.

Hey, Nobody's Perfect If you're looking in Microsoft's rear mirror, you could describe what you see in a whole bunch of ways. One adjective you probably won't use for the company's 2013 is 'quiet.'

It was a busy year even by Microsoft's standards. From Windows 8.1 to Xbox One to the Nokia device business acquisition to Office 365's continued growth to Steve Ballmer's (somewhat) surprising retirement announcement -- not to mention that whole NSA spying thing -- it seemed each week brought a new wave of headlines out of Redmond.

There was good news. Office 365 had some big customer wins and seemed to solidify the future of the Office franchise. Xbox One appears to be a hit. The Azure cloud is expanding globally. The Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro are sold out, and even if there's some inventory management magic behind the demand, it still makes a good headline for the Monday morning PR roundup. So 2013 wasn't a lousy year for Microsoft.

But, hey, let's face it. It's more fun to pick apart a company's shakier decisions and flat-out mistakes. So that's what we're here to do.

'Frustration' might be a more apt term than 'mistake' in some cases here -- as in frustration with Microsoft's apparent belief that a Microsoft customer can't also be a Google or Apple customer. Google doesn't mind acknowledging that the competition exists. 'In the next couple of weeks, you'll be able to download a new version of the Google Search app on iPhone and iPad,' the company wrote in a recent blog post touting the company's Hummingbird update. 'So if you tell your Nexus 7, 'OK, Google. Remind me to buy olive oil at Safeway,' when you walk into the store with your iPhone, you'll get a reminder.' See that? Dogs and cats, living together. (No human sacrifice or mass hysteria, either.)

A related frustration is the 2013 marketing push that insists the world craves 'one experience' for everything we do, as if we were living in a dystopian novel. And while we're on the topic of frustrations, Microsoft needs to stop communicating with consumers and businesses as if they were investors and board members. 'Devices and services' might perfectly describe Microsoft's vision of its future self, but when was the last time anyone said, 'I think I'm going to go buy some devices and services today'? Apple, by comparison, doesn't sell devices and services. It sells iPhones and music (and other stuff).

Sometimes frustrations morph into tangible mistakes -- pretending, for example, that Office devotees don't use iPads, a head-in-sand strategy if there ever was one. As our own Michael Endler reported in April:

Forrester analyst Dave Johnson told InformationWeek in February that Microsoft could reap greater returns if it stops protecting Windows and starts treating Office as a multi-OS platform. In an interview conducted just before the Outlook RT rumors hit, Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi offered similar sentiments, saying that because Office for iOS represents such a massive opportunity, it is 'only a question of time' until Redmond finally makes its move.

The time for that move was 2013. Alas, it didn't happen, so it's on our list.

Not on our list: There's a whole lot of wait-and-see stuff happening in the Microsoft universe at the moment, from the ongoing search for Ballmer's successor to the Nokia acquisition to the next evolutions of Windows 8.x. It's too early to pass sound judgment with so much to be determined on those fronts -- the CEO seat perhaps most of all. We'll have to revisit those at the end of 2014.

In the meantime, click the image above to dive into a slideshow on last year's mistakes. Got your own bones to pick with Microsoft's moves in 2013? Let's hear them in the comments.

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who covers technology affecting small and midsized businesses.

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