All posts in “Google”

Google ‘actively investigating’ reports of OLED burn-in issues on Pixel 2 XL displays


The Google Pixel 2 XL may have just launched this past week, but over the weekend reports began to surface that the device’s OLED screen was already exhibiting signs of burn-in, which left UI elements faintly evident after switching screens.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company was looking into the reports:

The Pixel 2 XL screen has been designed with an advanced POLED technology, including QHD+ resolution, wide color gamut, and high contrast ratio for natural and beautiful colors and renderings. We put all of our products through extensive quality testing before launch and in the manufacturing of every unit. We are actively investigating this report.

At first glance, it doesn’t look like a huge issue for day-to-day usage, but burn-in is an issue that has been known to worsen over time, so it’s not a great sign that early testers are already exhibiting this problem.

This issue appears to only be affecting the larger LG-manufactured Pixel 2 XL model at the moment.

I’m seeing limited ghosting of the bottom navigation bar where the image is retained after switching from previous screens, but it appears to go away after several seconds, unlike burn-in, which is generally more permanent.

OLED screens are far from perfect and have some known issues; this ailment, however, has the potential to be a bit more problematic. The fact that I didn’t realize this until I downloaded a gray background image and squinted at the bottom of the screen suggests that image retention issues at least won’t be something that gravely affects all users early on, but whether or not these problems worsen is something we’ll have to keep an eye on.

Touchscreen Google Home device evidence spied in official app code


There’s now more evidence Google is testing a touchscreen Home device. AndroidPolice points to sections of code of the latest Google app that refers to a device that sports a new on-screen interface. The APK teardown of 7.14.15 beta version revealed a long list of on-screen menus and functions that are utilized by a device with the code-name of Quartz. These abilities include YouTube playback — a function the Amazon Echo Show recently lost.

In September we reported Google was working on a Google Home device that sported a touchscreen interface. Two sources confirmed the device has been internally codenamed “Manhattan” and will have a similar screen size to the 7-inch Echo Show. One source received info directly from a Google employee. Both sources say the device will offer YouTube, Google Assistant, Google Photos and video calling. It will also act as a smart hub that can control Nest and other smart home devices.

This report by AndroidPolice seemingly confirms many of those details. The code review revealed multiple on-display features, interactive timers, weather forecasts with 32 different icons, YouTube video playback and a basic web browser, along with photo galleries and Google Maps with business listings.

At this point Google has yet to confirm the existence of the device yet it makes sense Google is at least toying with the idea and internally testing such a device. Companies have long tried to build a central information hub of sorts with the Amazon Echo Show being the latest such device. Google is clearly following the Amazon Echo line step for step with the next obvious move being an Echo Show clone.

Google officially flips on its internet-beaming balloons in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is in trouble. Approximately 3 million of its residents are still without electricity after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria, and 30% lack access to drinkable water. Exacerbating the process of recovery is the fact that communication infrastructure in general, and the internet specifically, is experiencing trouble across the U.S. territory.

Enter Alphabet’s Project Loon, which on October 20 announced that it had officially switched on its balloon-powered internet for some Puerto Rican residents. That’s right giant balloons are providing digital connectivity for some people who might otherwise go without. 

“Working with AT&T, Project Loon is now supporting basic communication and internet activities like sending text messages and accessing information online for some people with LTE enabled phones,” explains the company in a blog post. “This is the first time we have used our new machine learning powered algorithms to keep balloons clustered over Puerto Rico, so we’re still learning how best to do this. As we get more familiar with the constantly shifting winds in this region, we hope to keep the balloons over areas where connectivity is needed for as long as possible.”

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The balloons, which are now being deployed in a post-disaster setting for the second time, typically stay in the stratosphere for 100 days. They work by relaying signals from ground stations to people out of the reach of cell towers. With the use of an LTE mobile phone, people in affected areas can use that signal to connect to the internet — communicating with loved ones and getting much needed information in the process.  

“Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we’re not quite sure how well it will work, but we hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably difficult time,” the company explained. 

While Project Loon is far from perfect, how well it performs (or doesn’t) in Puerto Rico may be a sign of things to come. In the future, post disaster internet may be a thing we all take for granted — even if clean drinking water still isn’t.

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Apple makes an unexpected deal to improve cell service in Puerto Rico

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The ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico is making some strange bedfellows.

On Wednesday, Apple announced that it will, with AT&T’s help, enable the 900 MHz Band 8 ban cell service on many iPhones in Puerto Rico. That band can only connect to Google’s Project Loon.

“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria. Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week,” said Apple in an official statement.

Devastated on an almost unprecedented scale by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to rebuild core parts of its infrastructure, including basic communication technologies. Many people reported being unable to contact friends and families via cellphones and the internet. 

900 MHz (a 3G Extended GSM network) is not the normal band for cell communications and is not even one licensed for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. However, it is the communication band supported by Google’s Project Loon project. 

Earlier this month, Google got the okay to float its still-experimental, helium-balloon-based connection technology over the storm-ravaged island. The Loon balloons are designed to provide internet connectivity for rural areas and operate, more or less, as unmoored cell-towers, floating in the stratosphere and staying aloft for six months. A network carrier, like AT&T, communicates from the ground with the nearest Loon balloon and the balloons communicate with each other. Google’s balloons can provide up to a 10 Mbps LTE connectivity for cellphone owners on the ground.

However, before AT&T iPhone owners (iPhone 5c and above running iOS 10 and higher) can connect to Google’s Loon balloons, they need a crucial carrier update which will enable the 900 MHz Band 8. The iPhone’s mobile broadband radio already supports the provisional band, it’s just not enabled on the phone so the device doesn’t waste battery power scanning for a band that usually doesn’t have service.

The update is comparatively tiny (it can be measured in kilobytes), but the question remains: If there’s limited connectivity, how are Puerto Rico’s iPhone users going to download it?

According to StatusPR, a governmental web site dedicated to tracking Puerto Rica’s infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Maria, more than half of the U.S. territory’s cell towers are out of commission and 75% of cell antennas are still not functional.

There are pockets of connectivity and, overall, StatusPR reports 61% of the Puerto Rican telecommunication system is back online. This, however, includes wired and wireless systems. It’s not clear if AT&T iPhone customers can also download that carrier update from wired systems.

We’ve contacted AT&T for clarification and will update this story with their response.

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Think you can hack Tinder? Google will pay you $1,000.

Image: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hackers, it’s your time to shine. 

Google, in collaboration with bug bounty platform HackerOne, has launched the Google Play Security Reward Program, which promises $1,000 to anyone who can identify security vulnerabilities in participating Google Play apps. 

Thirteen apps are currently participating, including Tinder, Duolingo, Dropbox, Snapchat, and Headspace. 

Apps usually run their own bounty programs on a smaller scale. This is the first time that Google itself has offered a reward on behalf of developers. 

Here’s how it works. If you find a security vulnerability in one of the participating apps, you can report that vulnerability to the developer, and work with them to fix it. When the problem has been resolved, the Android Security team will pay you $1,000 as a reward, on top of any reward you get from the app developer. 

Google will be collecting data on the vulnerabilities and sharing it (anonymized) with other developers who may be exposed to the same problems. 

For HackerOne, it’s about attracting more and better participants in bounty programs. A developer who uncovers a vulnerability in Tinder will now receive a the cash bonus from Google in addition to the money they receive from Tinder’s program. 

“Participating apps that already have a bug bounty program will now have the opportunity to attract an even more diverse set of hackers,” Adam Bacchus, HackerOne’s chief bounty officer, told Mashable.

The 13 apps currently participating were selected based on their popularity among Android users. After a trial period with the small group, Google will open the program to the larger community.

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