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Mar 9, 2015

Huawei Nexus Said to Be Powered by a HiSilicon Kirin Processor

In recent weeks, we have been discussing the upcoming Google Nexus smartphone and tablet. It seems the search giant wants to introduce new models this year and is looking to adopt a new partner and bring it in the whole equation.

As it appears to be the case now, Google’s next smartphone (we assume) will be manufactured by Huawei. Apart from this info, we have nothing to go on spec-wise, but a new report coming out of Asia and relayed to us by Gizmo China reveals a new interesting detail. Huawei has been using its own home-grown chips inside its own smartphones, but if we’re to take the new piece of info as being legitimate, the next-gen Nexus will come equipped with one of the company’s HiSilicon chips.

The current Nexus 6 relies on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805, but the future iteration will probably live off a high-end Kirin 930 platform. The same piece of silicone will fuel Huawei’s upcoming flagship model, the Ascend P8. For those of you who don’t know, the Kirin 930 is constructed based on a 16nm process. It has eight 64-bit cores, broken down into four Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. The chip can be clocked up to 2GHz. So we think the next-gen Nexus will be in good hands.

Huawei's new Kirin 930 chip
Image credits to XDA Decelopers Forum

Crooks Create High-Quality Fake Xiaomi Mi4 Smartphone

Following the results of joint investigative efforts from Bluebox Security and Xiaomi smartphone manufacturer, it has been discovered that unofficial retailers in China sell very convincing versions of the popular Mi4 mobile phone.

Last week, researchers at Bluebox Security published a highly non-flattering security report for the device after noticing that it came with adware and malware pre-installed, and that root access was already available. The trust score achieved by the device was a meager 2.6.

Verifying authenticity was not an easy task
Given the reputation of the Chinese vendor, Bluebox researchers suspected that they might have gotten their hands on a fake and verified the authenticity of the device. However, reaching a truthful conclusion was not possible due to the various false leads planted by the crooks. Relying on CPU-Z for hardware benchmarking and on Xiaomi’s own Mi Identification app (anti-fake software) to determine the authenticity of the device, the researchers concluded that they had a genuine product. This was enforced by the physical hardware identifiers, which indicated the real McCoy.

However, it appears that the cybercriminals went to great lengths to cover any sign of the deceit and rigged the device with modified copies of the benchmarking software and the anti-fake app. These would automatically replace the real apps should the user want to check the device, so the results of the test would not be accurate. Discovering the fake Mi4 smartphone was not an easy process, as it involved scrutiny of the hardware internals from Xiaomi experts and checking the IMEI number and the version of the Android operating system.

“The level of detail this counterfeit went to look like and act like the real thing was rather extraordinary. It has the same internal structures, battery and labels on the components that are commonly used by people online to determine the authenticity of a device if it’s not powered on,” says Andrew Blaich of Bluebox in an update to the initial report. The steps needed to establish the counterfeit nature of the device are more than what a regular user would normally go through. When evaluating the security of the original Android provided by the Chinese manufacturer, Bluebox obtained a better score, of 6.7, which may be further improved in the future.

Other brands are also impersonated
Xiaomi said via email that its MIUI (Android-based firmware) powering all Xiaomi devices follows the Android Compatibility Definition Document and passes all compatibility tests, making it suitable for the international market. The official statement received from the company also draws attention to the fact that the Chinese black market makes available counterfeit products that are almost indistinguishable on the outside. “This happens across all brands, affecting both Chinese and foreign smartphone companies selling in China,” Xiaomi said.

Spending money on a non-original product and then getting ripped off once more through malicious apps that come with the device can be avoided if the product is purchased only from official retailers. In the case of Xiaomi products, the company representative said that apart from the official website, genuine products can generally be purchased from mobile operators. Tmall is also on the list of official distributors.

Xiaomi Mi4, Users should purchase the phone only from official retailers
Image credits to Xiaomi

ASUS ZenFone 2 Launches, 4GB of RAM Version Gets Surprising Under $300 Price

Just as promised, today ASUS has released the ZenFone 2 after officially announcing it at CES 2015 a few months ago.

The smartphone is currently available only in ASUS’ home country, Taiwan, where the device maker is offering the phone in its 5.5-inch and 5-inch variations. The latter is extremely affordable (as seen at Whats on Tech). Before the big day, there were concerns that ASUS might not make the ZenFone 2 as affordable as it was originally announced. Last month, we told you that the handset had already showed up for pre-order on AliExpress with a $300 / €262 price tag for the 2GB of model (which was $100 / €78 more than what we were expecting), while the 4GB of RAM model had been listed for $440 / €384.

ASUS' 4GB phone is surprisingly affordable
Well, the good news is that the scenario is not all that dark. Now that the smartphones have been made available, we can tell you that things turned out better than expected. Actually, the much craved 4GB of RAM model is getting quite a competitive price, placed under the $300 / €262 threshold. Here is the complete list of prices:

ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch display, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage - $NT 8900 / $285
ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage - $NT6990 / $221
ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage - $NT5990 / $190
ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5-inch display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage - $NT4990 / $158

So there you have it folks, ASUS might not have maintained the $199 / €183 price tag for its ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch display and 2GB of RAM, but at least it pleasantly surprised us while the 4GB model is concerned. This month, the ZenFone 2 will also arrive in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and France. In April, the phones will make it to India, Italy, and Southeast Asia, and in June ASUS will offer the new models in Brazil. The high-end ZenFone 2 model offers a 5.5-inch 1080p display and bundles a quad-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 2.3GHz and fitted with 4GB of RAM.

ASUS ZenFone 2 launches in Taiwan

ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch screen in multiple colors
Image credits to ASUS

ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch display launches in TaiwanImage credits to ASUS

ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5.5-inch display vs ASUS ZenFone 2 with 5-inch displayImage credits to ASUS

There’s Still Hope: Android 5.0 Lollipop Shown Running on Sony Xperia C3

Sony might have confirmed the Android 5.0 Lollipop update for its Xperia Z smartphone line, and even if we are yet to see it roll out for these devices, we can be pretty confident that Sony will deliver what it promised a few months ago.

However, this weekend, a new piece of information came to light. It appears Sony does not plan to update to Lollipop handsets that are not part of the Xperia Z family. The company made this pretty clear saying that “We can advise that the Android 5.0 Lollipop update is going to be released for the entire Xperia Z series only, we do apologize.” This response prompted complaints from a lot of owners of non-Xperia Z handsets on various forums, which in turn probably made the Japanese company think twice about its decision. Overnight, the company’s stance has changed from no update for the non-Xperia Z series to “no comment.” The device maker tweeted, “We can’t comment on upgrades for further products at this time - please stay tuned to our blog for the latest information.”

Has Sony changed its mind so fast?
A few hours after the happening, the story gets another twist. The folks at Xperia Blog have managed to dig up some screenshots showing the Sony Xperia C3 handset running on Android 5.0 Lollipop. Yes, the C and Z letters are pronounced pretty similarly, but this sounds like a rather lousy reason to explain Sony’s almost bipolar change of heart. On the other hand, it’s possible that Sony initially had plans to update non-Xperia Z phones to Lollipop, but after internally testing it on the Xperia C3, the company realized it wouldn’t be able to pull it off and abandoned the endeavor. The screenshots discovered by Xperia Blog depict things like the Recent Apps Menu, Lock Screen notifications, Quick Settings page, and your usual Material Design tweaks.

Even if the theory we shared with you above might be what really happened and Sony was testing the update internally, the leaked photographs still give us hope that the update for non-Xperia Z devices will eventually come along. Sony has a history of being quite ambivalent. Back when the Xperia E4 was announced, the company itself seemed to be in the dark about which OS the handset would ship with, Android 5.0 Lollipop or Android 4.4.4 KitKat (both versions were mentioned in official documents). The latter turned out to be the case.

Sony Xperia C3 might get Android 5.0 Lollipop
Image credits to Sony Mobile

Android 5.0 Lollipop on Sony Xperia C3

Lockscreen notifications/Quick settings

Recent Apps Menu
Images credits to Xperia Blog

WhatsApp Denies Claims of Permanent Bans on Users of Unofficial Clients

Last week a report coming from a developer of an unofficial WhatsApp client claimed the instant messenger developer is not imposing permanent bans on those who use third-party apps.

WhatsApp took similar actions against users of unofficial third-party WhatsApp clients for quite some time, but those bans were only temporarily imposed for just 24 hours. The confusion in the last couple of days on WhatsApp permanent bans stemmed from the fact that the countdown clock which was displayed when opening the application was removed and everyone thought they were permanently banned from using WhatsApp. Even after 24 hours those who received the ban weren't able to use WhatsApp services, but the only reason was the fact that they did not uninstall the third-party apps. While developers of unofficial WhatsApp clients are trying to find anti-ban solutions that would be included in their apps, it looks like WhatsApp has found a way to disable its app from devices who detect third-party party apps like WhatsApp+, WhatsApp Reborn or OgWhatsApp.

Uninstall any third-party WhatsApp clients if you were banned
According to WhatsApp, those who were banned from using its services will be able to use them again from the moment they uninstall these unofficial apps. A WhatsApp official confirmed the information to TechCrunch: “If a user doesn’t uninstall WhatsApp+ then they will continue to be banned until they stop using it. But there is no permanent ban.” So, until those who develop these third-party WhatsApp clients don't find a way to avoid detection, users of these apps will have to uninstall them if they want to continue to use the instant messenger's services.

Bottom line is there's no permanent ban for users of unofficial WhatsApp clients, but you're now required to uninstall them from your device if you want to take advantage of the service.

WhatsApp temporarily banned message
Image credits to WhatsApp

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