AWT News Update: November 15, 2016 (Houston, TX)

Evil Andy! 

Evil Andy! 

Steve's in Houston, TX for a few hours tonight, so it was time to get a short AWT News Update recorded and published for your listening pleasure. What's up?

  • We discuss another good reason to not have an Android phone; manufacturer-installed software was sending the text messages and metadata from a number of phones to a Chinese server
  • Apple Pay expands big time in Australia, and new banks in Russia and China
  • Google releases PhotoScan for grabbing those old prints and moving them to digital, and also updates Google Photos

Just a reminder: Steve is on road, in the air and on the seas for the next month, so the AWT News Update may not be published every weekday.

The text version of the podcast can be viewed below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below. 

Text Version

Hi, this is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for November 15, 2016.

I'm on the road today; in Houston, Texas on the way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Please excuse any background noise you may hear.

Here's another reason to be glad that you don't have an Android phone...or if you do, why you should consider getting yourself an iPhone. Pre-installed software was placed on some Android phones by a developer that was hired to create apps for an undisclosed Chinese manufacturer that takes the content of text messages composed on the device and other user metadata and sends it to a server in China. Security researchers Kryptowire found the software and it's believed that the code is on 700 million phones. One manufacturer in the US, BLU Products, found the software on 120,000 of its phones, then updated its software to eliminate the monitoring. The US Department of Homeland Security was advised of the situation and says that it is "working with our public and private sector partners to identify appropriate mitigation strategies." As devious as this sounds, it is believed that the software was created at the request of a Chinese phone manufacturer to assist with customer support, tracking down junk text message, and thwarting unwanted phone calls.

We like to keep our international listeners up to date on the latest additions to Apple Pay, and today Apple updated the list to add nine new banks and credit unions in China, four in Russia and over 30 in Australia. The addition of banks in Australia is quite surprising, considering that some of the country's banks have been trying to get Apple to let then access the internal NFC circuitry of the iPhone in order to create their own touchless payment systems.

For the past few years there have been a handful of iOS apps that provide a way for users to digitize and store old print photos. Today Google released a standalone PhotoScan app for iOS that allows users to digitize old physical prints with the phone's camera. As with other apps of its kind, PhotoScan's images aren't as sharp as they'd be if scanned on a high-end flatbed scanner, but the app does provide automatic cropping, rotation, and color correction. Google Photos also received a major update today, with better granular controls for the Light and Color sliders including exposure, contrast , whites, highlights and shadows. Auto enhancement now also provides pro editing enhancements like balancing exposure and saturation. Filters are applied with machine intelligence to make edits that are based on the attributes of a particular photo.

That’s all for today; I will be back hopefully tomorrow with another edition of the AWT News Update...but don't be surprised if you don't hear one until Thursday.