Internet-free Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro aimed toward keeping students on task

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Samsung has announced the launch of its Galaxy J2 Pro smartphone in South Korea. The device supports all the basic functions of a phone such as calling and texting, but it can’t connect to 2G, 3G, 4G LTE, or Wi-Fi.

The Internet-free device is geared mainly toward students who need to focus on studying without any distractions. Not being able to constantly access the outside world on their phone — whether it’s social media, games, or even a web browser — might make it easier for them to stay on task. But it can also be an option for people who don’t need to access the internet from their smartphones and only need to make phone calls or send text messages.

In terms of specs, the Galaxy J2 Pro comes with a 5-inch QHD Super AMOLED display, along with an 8-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera. Under the hood, is a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 2,600mAh replaceable battery. For storage, the device also has a microSD slot.

The Galaxy J2 Pro is available in two colors — black and gold — and costs $190 U.S. When it comes to aesthetics, it’s curved design and glossy look doesn’t make it seem too outdated in comparison to other budget phones.

There’s not much else to the device other than an offline “Diodict4” electronic dictionary application that can be used for foreign language learning. Other features include a calendar app, an FM radio, and a calculator. While there is an LTE modem in the phone, it’s disabled for any tasks other than calling or texting people, The Verge notes. But you can choose a data plan that puts a limit on how many texts you’re able to send out.

Samsung is also currently running a special promotion in honor of the new device for students between the ages of 18 and 21. Once students have completed the College Scholastic Ability Test — a college-entrance exam taken in South Korea — after 2019 and 2020, they’ll be able to trade in their Galaxy J2 Pro for a Galaxy S, Note, or A Series phone — as long as it was released after 2018.

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Soon, you won’t need a separate subscription to watch Netflix on Comcast Xfinity

In 2016, Comcast announced that it had partnered with Netflix to put the streaming service on its Xfinity X1 platform. This was great for Xfinity customers, but was slightly inconvenient, as you still needed to maintain your Netflix subscription separate from your Xfinity subscription. Those days are drawing to a close, as today the two companies announced an expanded partnership that will see Netflix more tightly integrated with Xfinity.

The announcement says that Comcast will offer “new and innovative” packages that include Netflix, and that these packages will begin rolling out later this month. Comcast will handle all of the billing, making one less monthly bill you need to keep aware of.  Unfortunately, the companies haven’t been generous with details, so we’ll have to wait until they begin rolling out to see what the pricing is, and how these new packages will compare to the old method of using a stand-alone Netflix subscription.

“Netflix offers one of the most popular on demand services and is an important supplement to the content offering and value proposition of the X1 platform,” Comcast Cable chief business development officer Sam Schwartz said in a statement. “Netflix is a great partner, and we are excited to offer its services to our customers in new ways that provide them with more choice, value and flexibility. The seamless integration of Netflix with the vast Xfinity entertainment library on X1 present a unique and comprehensive experience for customers.”

Judging based on some of the numbers in the announcement, it’s no surprise that Comcast and Netflix have decided to expand their partnership. Almost 50 percent of Xfinity X1 customers are reportedly using Netflix on the platform, and “Netflix” is one of the most popular voice commands users speak into the X1 Remote.

Fortunately, we don’t have too long to wait for a look at these new packages, though Comcast says that while offers will be available to both new and existing customers, options and availability will vary by market. If this has you curious about Comcast Xfinity, be sure to take a look at our guide detailing everything you need to know about the service.

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VW leans toward SUVs, but it stresses the next Passat will be worth the wait

Volkswagen Passat GT
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SUVs and crossovers represented approximately half of Volkswagen’s American sales in March. That is hardly surprising; it reflects the direction the entire new car market is moving in. The German firm wants to launch more high-riding models in the coming years, but it’s also allocating a significant amount of resources into building a better, more desirable Passat for the North American market. The model will make its debut next year.

“The Passat is in a very competitive segment, and the segment is not doing very well right now. But we absolutely want to stay a full-line manufacturer so the Passat will get a great successor. It will be great-looking, and most likely more Americanized [than the current model]. We are very much looking forward to it. We see higher volume opportunities for this Passat over its predecessor,” Hinrich Woebcken, the head of Volkswagen’s North American division, told Digital Trends.

The new Passat will join the much-improved 2019 Jetta in showrooms. That is as big as Volkswagen’s sedan lineup will get, at least in the short-term future. Looking further ahead, we will see a toned-down version of the Atlas Cross Sport concept unveiled recently in New York. Think of it as the brand’s answer to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Atlas Tanoak concept that made waves when it broke cover alongside the Cross Sport in the Big Apple hasn’t received the proverbial green light for production yet, a spokesperson for the company told Digital Trends. Building a business case for a unibody, lifestyle-oriented pickup truck is easier said than done, even in a truck-loving market like the United States.

Woebcken thinks the shift toward SUVs and crossovers is a permanent one. “In former times, when gas prices went up people went back to sedans. We believe this will not happen anymore,” he explained. That’s because modern crossovers get almost the same gas mileage as a comparably sized car, and because motorists have gotten used to sitting up high in a car. With that in mind, he told us an SUV positioned below the Tiguan could arrive, too. It would replace the Tiguan Limited.

“We are investigating a second SUV below the Tiguan. The compact segment is so huge that we believe there is space for a second model,” he revealed. However, don’t expect the company to go much smaller and venture into sub-compact crossover territory like some of its rivals (including Toyota and Honda) have done. “The market [for sub-compact crossovers] is too small,” he pointed out.

Volkswagen hasn’t revealed precisely when the next-generation Passat will make its debut. We could get our first glimpse of it at next year’s edition of the Detroit auto show, or we might have to wait until the 2019 New York auto show. Either way, it won’t land in showrooms until the 2020 model year, meaning the current model (pictured) will stick around for at least one additional model year. It’s not an SUV, but it remains a significant part of the company’s growth plans.

“We have a good chance to be one of the strongest-growing brands in the country in the coming years,” Woebcken predicted. “Coming out of a niche position, we have more potential to grow than our competitors — if we do everything right, which we intend to do.”

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Yahoo Japan invests in a cryptocurrency exchange platform launching this fall

BitARG Exchange Tokyo confirmed on Friday, April 13, that it made a deal to sell stock shares to a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan. This investment will bring in Yahoo Japan’s “service operation and security expertise” to strengthen BitARG’s upcoming cryptocurrency exchange platform. Yahoo Japan now holds a 40 percent portion of the exchange while BitARG parent company CMD Laboratories will hold the remaining 60 percent.

BitARG Exchange Japan and Yahoo Japan did not provide the financial details of the deal. But an unnamed source familiar with the sale claims the transaction equaled to around 2 billion to 3 billion yen, which converts to $18.6 million to $27.9 million.

“We will enter the blockchain-related area where applications are expected in the virtual currency business,” reads a rough translation of Yahoo Japan’s statement. “In addition, by utilizing the service operation and security expertise of the Yahoo group, we support the operation of exchanges operated by BitARG Exchange Tokyo and the operation after the start. It is easy to use and safe for exchange services.”

The news arrives after BitARG executive Yoon Hee Yuan denied rumors that the exchange would sell 40 percent of its stock to Yahoo Japan to launch a new cryptocurrency exchange in the region. Yaun said at the end of March that the company was studying “various possibilities” such as investments and partnerships with other companies to strengthen the upcoming platform and its management.

BitARG plans to launch its new cryptocurrency exchange platform in the fall that will primarily deal with the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. A second investment from other Yahoo subsidiaries are expected to be made at the beginning of 2019 with a final product launching in April 2019. The cryptocurrency trading platform received its approval from Japan’s Financial Services Agency in December and is ironing out the business side before going live this fall.

BitARG Exchange Tokyo isn’t the only exchange getting a cash injection. Monex Group said last week that it purchased 100 percent of Coincheck’s shares for $34 million. According to the company, the deal will fuse Coincheck’s knowledge of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency with its knowledge of the financial industry. The investment should also help Coincheck “enhance” its internal security to better prevent hacks.

Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck saw the theft of around $530 million in NEM tokens earlier in 2018. The company admitted to a lapse in security, including a much-needed multi-signature approval component, that allowed a single hacker to transfer the virtual coins stored in Coincheck’s “hot wallet” to an external account. Hot wallets are typically connected to external networks whereas cold wallets used by most individuals are not.

According to reports, the digital coins were sent to 11 different addresses although the owner of these accounts is still unknown. Japan’s Financial Services Agency ordered the exchange to strengthen its security and management system in early March. Coincheck began issuing refunds to customers affected by the January 26 hack several days later.

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Waymo reportedly applies to put autonomous cars on California roads with no safety drivers

Waymo has become the second company to apply for the newly-available permit to deploy autonomous vehicles without safety drivers on some California roads, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. It would be putting its cars — well, minivans — on streets around Mountain View, where it already has an abundance of data.

The company already has driverless driverless cars in play over in Phoenix, as it showed in a few promotional videos last month. So this isn’t the first public demonstration of its confidence.

California only just made it possible to grant permits allowing autonomous vehicles without safety drivers on April 2; one other company has applied for it in addition to Waymo, but it’s unclear which. The new permit type also allows for vehicles lacking any kind of traditional manual controls, but for now the company is sticking with its modified Chrysler Pacificas. Hey, they’re practical.

The recent fatal collision of an Uber self-driving car with a pedestrian, plus another fatality in a Tesla operating in semi-autonomous mode, make this something of an awkward time to introduce vehicles to the road minus safety drivers. Of course, it must be said that both of those cars had people behind the wheel at the time of their crashes.

Assuming the permit is granted, Waymo’s vehicles will be limited to the Mountain View area, which makes sense — the company has been operating there essentially since its genesis as a research project within Google. So there should be no shortage of detail in the data, and the local authorities will be familiar with the people necessary for handling any issues like accidents, permit problems, and so on.

No details yet on what exactly the cars will be doing, or whether you’ll be able to ride in one. Be patient.

Law enforcement agencies are buying GrayKey, a device to unlock iPhones

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Unlocking an iPhone may no longer be the arduous task it once was for law enforcement officials. It would appear that an increasing number of U.S. law enforcement agencies are buying a cost-effective device capable of unlocking iPhones without breaking a sweat. It’s called GrayKey, and it’s a small grey box with two lightning cables that stick out like antennae.

Using the device, you can connect two iPhones simultaneously, and users are meant to keep them connected for about two minutes. While they’re not immediately unlocked upon disconnection, Malwarebytes reports that “some time later, the phones will display a black screen with the passcode, among other information.”

Exactly how long it takes to unlock the phone varies, and in Malwarebytes’ observation, it took about two hours. It can, however, take up to three days or even longer for longer passwords (up to six digits), and for passwords even longer than that, there’s no word yet in exactly how long it takes. But allegedly, this device works for disabled phones, as well as phones running iOS 11.

GrayKey comes from a company called Grayshift, an Atlanta-based company founded in 2016. As per a Forbes report, the GrayKey is meant for law enforcement officials or labs, which means that it is indeed a device designed specifically for the authorities. Once a device is unlocked, its contents are downloaded to the GrayKey, where they can be further analyzed by the powers that be either on a connected computer, or as a downloaded file. Moreover, Malwarebytes reports, “The full, unencrypted contents of the keychain are also available for download.”

So how much does this device cost? There are two options available. The first requires internet connectivity, and will set police stations back $15,000. It’s also geofenced, which means that once it’s been activated, it cannot be used on another internet network. Then, there’s a $30,000 version, which does not depend on the internet to work, and does not have a limit on the number of phones it can unlock. While this may sound expensive, authorities ultimately paid Israeli company Cellebrite $900,000 to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.

As per a report from Motherboard, a number of police forces — including ones in Maryland and Indiana — have already acquired or are considering acquiring a GrayKey. The U.S. State Department allegedly already has one as well, while the Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Administration are also looking into making a purchase.

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Leaked internal memo warns Apple employees about the dangers of leaking

Apple, the world’s largest tech company, issued a very stern memo to its employees warning about the consequences of leaking future product and software road maps to the press and analysts. The confidential memo, leaked to Bloomberg, comes after a series of embarrassing leaks in 2017 and 2018 leading up to the launch of the iPhone X, iOS 11, EarPods, and iPad Pro.

This isn’t the first warning the company has issued. In 2012 Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to double down on secrecy shortly after replacing the company’s founder, Steve Jobs. The company also held a private meeting with employees in 2017 in attempts to stop internal leaks, though many of the leaks mentioned in the memo appear to have taken place after the meeting.

Apple acknowledged product and software leaks are not limited to internal employees. The memo states Apple’s Global Security team “caught 29 leakers. Twelve of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain.”

A few examples of internal leaks listed in the memo include that of an employee who leaked the golden master of iOS 11 in 2017 and was caught by the company’s internal investigations team within a matter of days. It also calls out 9to5Mac by name as a recipient of multiple product leaks from employees.

Apple advises of the consequences of leaking in the memo, stating that leakers will not only be fired, but can face felony prosecution as well. Tom Moyer of Global Security also warns “the potential criminal consequences of leaking are real, and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”

Apple also warns employees of the possibility  of “being played” by journalists and analysts who may attempt to befriend them on social media to gain trade secrets. “The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apple’s secrets from you and making them public. A scoop about an unreleased Apple product can generate massive traffic for a publication and financially benefit the blogger or reporter who broke it. But the Apple employee who leaks has everything to lose.”

While Apple uses its own internal investigations to sniff out internal leakers, the memo also discusses the steps the company is taking to protect its intellectual property when working with suppliers and vendors. Apple’s Global Security division works closely with these third-parties to pinpoint vulnerabilities and ensure its safety practices, both technological and physical, meet or exceed the exacting demands of the tech giant. The approach appears to be working as Apple reported the “programs have nearly eliminated the theft of prototypes and products from factories, caught leakers and prevented many others from leaking in the first place.”

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Russia bans Popular messenger app Telegram, Kremlin must use new service

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Telegram has been banned in Russia. On Friday, April 13, a court issued an order banning the popular messenger service, a decision that comes a week after Russian communication watchdog Roskomnadzor filed a lawsuit to limit users’ access to the app. The showdown began to form when Telegram refused to allow Russian state security services to access user messages — one of Telegram’s defining features is its special secret chats, which make use of end-to-end encryption.

As it stands, more than 200 million users around the globe use Telegram to communicate in what is thought to be a safe and secure method. However, Russia’s FSB Federal Security service claims that it must be able to read some of these messages in order to protect the state against certain dangers, including potential terrorist attacks. Telegram, however, has refused to turn over user messages, noting that it holds user privacy in the utmost regard.

“The court decided to meet the requirements of Roskomnadzor,”  judge Yulia Smolina said, according to the TASS news agency. “The ban on access to information will be in force until the FSB’s demands are met on providing keys for decrypting user messages.”

While it is not clear yet when the ban will be enforced, the head of Roskomnadzor, Alexander Zharov, says it will go into effect. The watchdog organization has since added Telegram to its roster of banned websites, which will certainly make it easier to block.

Telegram’s founder and CEO, Pavel Durov, has already stated that the app will do what it can to make its way around the ban. However, without the use of a virtual private network, the app cannot ensure that users will be able to attain 100 percent access.

The decision is the latest in a long line of rather alarming governmental moves to stymie communication. As Pavel Chikov, a lawyer representing Telegram, said via his own Telegram channel, “[Russian officials] have demonstrated again and again that the court system is devoted to serving the interests of the authorities. They no longer even care about basic external appearances.”

Curiously enough, this ban will affect members of the Kremlin, who use Telegram to communicate themselves. But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov does not seem terribly concerned. In a conference call on Friday, organized using — what else — Telegram, Peskov said that the team would simply adopt a new messaging service.

“Limiting access was not the goal in and of itself,” he said. “There is the legal position, which requires the provision of data to certain Russian state bodies. Meetings this condition would have allowed for a consensus. But unfortunately this consensus was not reached.”

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The ultra-affordable LG Fortune 2 is now available from Cricket Wireless

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Looking for a decently high-quality device but don’t have a ton of cash to spend? The new LG Fortune 2 may be the phone for you. The device launched Friday, April 13, on Cricket Wireless and it offers some nice features for the affordable price of $100.

Of course, you won’t get a flagship-quality phone at $100, but the phone seems to be relatively powerful. You get 16GB of internal storage, along with a MicroSD card slot that can expand that storage by up to 32GB. We don’t know which specific processor is used in the device, but Cricket Wireless notes that it’s a 1.4GHz quad-core chip — which isn’t bad for the money you’re paying here.

A smartphone’s camera is becoming increasingly important. On the back of this phone, you will find an 8-megapixel camera with a flash, while on the front you get a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The 5-inch display doesn’t have a super high resolution, though for under $100 it’s not all that bad.

The main downside to this phone is that it’s only available on Cricket Wireless, and there are a few other options from the carrier that might be worth considering too. For example, Cricket also offers the ZTE Blade X Max, which also comes at $100 if you transfer your number over, and offers a 1.4GHz octa-core processor, 3,400mAh battery, 6-inch display, 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and 5-megapixel front-facing camera. In general, the ZTE Blade X Max seems to be a better device — though not everyone will be into the larger display.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the LG Fortune 2 isn’t a good deal — just that if you want raw power, there are better options. If, however, you like the idea of a smaller device and still don’t want to pay too much cash, then the Fortune 2 is definitely a decent option.

You can get the new LG Fortune 2 for yourself by heading to Cricket Wireless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though the device is available through any other carrier at this time, though it’s likely similar devices will be.

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Elon Musk says Tesla will be profitable in Q3 and Q4

Tesla is one of the more interesting companies for Wall Street that had an interesting couple of months this year — and it seems even tweets from Elon Musk, who said that the company will be profitable in the back half of the year, may be enough to swing its stock.

The Tesla and SpaceX founder sent a tweet very early this morning that the company would be profitable and cash-flow positive in the third and fourth quarter this year. Tesla is known for setting ambitious targets and forecasts, especially as it looks to ramp up Model 3 production to around 2,500 vehicles per week. Musk said he took direct control of Model 3 production earlier this month in a note to employees, also sent out at around 3 a.m. pacific time. Tesla’s shares were up slightly, gaining around 2% in trading today.

Tesla saw a small bump in its stock throughout the day. While it could be for a variety of reasons, Musk’s data point may have offered a small amount of clarity (and optimism) around whether the company will be able to eventually turn a profit. The tweet was fired off as a response to a story by The Economist that said the company may have to raise additional capital at some point, according to banking firm Jeffries. (It was also quite snarky.)

On Tesla’s last call to discuss the company’s quarterly results with Wall Street analysts, Musk said that the company would begin generating “positive quarterly operating income on a sustained basis,” and said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the company would be GAAP profitable. Musk said the company wanted to hit a production target of 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week at some point in 2018, though did not give a specific time frame. The tweet, while fired off as a response to a story by The Economist, appears to offer another small data point as to when it might happen.

Earlier this month, Tesla fell back behind Ford in terms of its market cap as some pressure has hit the stock. Tesla has had to address a fatal crash involving its autopilot, in addition to a voluntary recall of 123,000 Model S vehicles. There is some skepticism around whether Tesla will hit its production targets from Wall Street (making cars is hard, it seems).