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5 Days After Release, Google ‘Pixel 3A / 3A XL’ Criticized For Poor Performance

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Google released new Pixel line, the 3a and 3a XL

Back in the days, when Google releases new hardware, the fascination towards these new product lines are apparent. Indeed, when it comes to devices, Google is the Picasso or the Michaelangelo of modern technology, who’s craftsmanship resonates into something spectacular.

Recalling the early days of the Google Pixel, and how demand strike due to the exceptional performance, Google was in the pinnacle of mobile success. The excellent taste of build quality, the incredibly smooth performance, and most importantly, the cameras. Every crisp detail witnessed on the Google Pixel sounded as if its the phone to beat.

Then came the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, which most of us concludes as the most solid Android device Google offered. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL is the perfect example of the common phrase don’t judge the book by its cover. The phone may not look like the future of smartphones, but it packs a beast that probably surpasses its successor, the Pixel 3.

Google Pixel Camera Feat
Google Pixel Camera. Photo: Maurizio Pesce | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Pixel 2 sports a 5-inch screen while its larger variant, the Pixel 2 XL, shows off an edge-to-edge 6-inch display with 18:9 aspect ratio. Priced at an exceptionally budget-friendly range, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL now runs on Android Q beta for better photo quality, water resistant, and a much easy Google Assistant button.

At some point, these two previous Pixel phones were a testament to Google’s years of hard work and experimentation to offer top-tier mobile performance. And that transpire into incredible sales turn around with both Pixel and Pixel 2 running out of stock. In 2017, Google sold 3.9 million Pixel and Pixel 2 phones. Although the Pixel and Pixel 2 are no exception to any smartphone flaws, these devices maintained a steady reputation for Google.

Now, heading to Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL, Google’s most expensive Android device yet; this is where Google Pixel phones fall into a downhill slope. Aside from its high price point, the Pixel 3 made its predecessor, the Pixel 2, the juicier option. Without a doubt, the camera is Pixel phones’ creme-de-la-creme, and it got better in Pixel 3 via its machine-learning software that enhances photo quality. But, its weak battery life and sparse memory management (sporting 4GB RAM while others do 6GB) suck the life out of the Pixel 3. A report from 9to5google.com revealed that six months after the Pixel 3’s release, owners are still facing an ample amount of issues that Google failed to address.

Google Pixel 3 XL with the Google logo.
Google Pixel 3 XL. Photo: Tony Webster | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Continuing to its latest flagship, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL, Google’s budget-friendly alternative to the Pixel 3, the response towards the new Android device seem to fall short due to some shortcomings. Five days after its most awaited release, consumers in various forums and social media sites backlashed over the Pixel 3a’s poor performance.

Usually, Google is amassed of admirations and praises due to its unique and potent mobile craftsmanship. This time, however, as much as Google wants to mitigate the Pixel and Pixel 2’s success, it might have been the worst one yet.

Claims regarding Google’s Digital Wellbeing software slowing down Pixel 3’s performance is all over Reddit. A thread from Reddit user “ploewer” details that after turning the Digital Wellbeing feature, the Pixel 3 runs like a real flagship. Hence, a software that should be meant as a helpful tool for the device turned out to be an off-putting feat.

Google Digital Wellbeing is a transparent tool that monitors your usage and maintains the balance between life and tech. In a sense, it’s Google’s response to the increasing number of smartphone addictions. Well, the Digital Wellbeing software should not turn your Pixel 3 into a sluggish device. It should be a useful feat that runs in the background and tracks your overall activity in both apps and device in general. These data are valuable, especially if you’re aiming for a more productive day instead of spending most of your time staring at the screen.

If more evidence proves that the Digital Wellbeing software, indeed, slows down the Pixel 3’s performance, it’s a total let down, especially for a feature that intends to be useful. As of the moment, Google is yet to respond with regards to these claims from some Pixel owners. And as per its temporary resolution, the only thing to do is to disable the feature.

Pixel 3 and its budget-friendly counterpart, the Pixel 3a, is leading Google to massive setbacks. Pixel 3a and 3a XL owners complain about weaker camera performance. And the most glaring issue faced by most users is the device’s slower performance, a speed that rivals its predecessor in an off-putting way.

Undoubtedly, Pixel 3a/3a XL price cuts may be appealing to some consumers. However, this comes for some spec cuts too. So, did Google unwilling shuts Pixel 3’s hopes after 3a’s release? Or, is Google becoming a weary smartphone maker?

Environmentalist. Consumer Tech Journalist. Science Explorer. And, a dreamer. I've been contributing informative news content since 2010. Follow me on all socials!

Cybersecurity

Hackers-For-Hire Are Ineffective And Expensive, Google Study Says

Researchers from Google and University of California said that hackers-for-hire services are frauds and expensive. They also said that they are not threats to individual accounts. Click To Tweet

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Researchers from Google and University of California said that hackers-for-hire services are frauds and expensive.
Researchers says they are not threats to individual Google accounts. Photo: Richard Patterson | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Researchers from Google have yet again found a new and compelling reason why people should not hire hackers online, even if their offers are enticing enough for some people to fall for. New research published last week by Google, and researchers from the University of California, San Diego reveals that hackers-for-hire services available online are scams and ineffective.

The research methodology includes contracting 27 hacking services, and as expected, a considerable chunk of them did not respond to the inquiries made by the researchers, while 12 of them responded but never actually attempted to launch an attack. The researchers noted that only five service providers ended up launching assaults against the test Gmail accounts.

“Using unique online buyer personas, we engaged directly with 27 such account hacking service providers and asked them with compromising victim accounts of our choosing,” researchers said.

“These victims, in turn, were ‘honey pot’ Gmail accounts, operated in coordination with Google, and allowed us to record key interactions with the victim as well as with other fabricated aspects of their online persona that we created (e.g., business web servers, email addresses of friends or partner).”

Additionally, out of the 12 who responded to the inquiries of the researchers, nine of them have said that they are no longer working in the hacking business and it turned out that the rest are straight up scams.

The services offered online was said to be charged between $100 and $500 and interestingly, none of the service providers used automated tools for the attacks that they promise their clients.

The attacks are instead involving social engineer, with the hackers using spear-phishing techniques to target attacks for each intended victim. Researchers highlighted that while some of the hackers have asked them for information about the intended victims of the supposed attacks, others didn’t even bother and chose to employ a “re-usable email phishing templates.”

Interestingly, one of the five hackers who ended up launching an attack to the test Gmail account tried to infect the victim with malware rather than straightforwardly phish for account credentials. Once the malware infected email was opened and the malware installed in the victim’s system, the hacker will have virtual remote control of the entire system and would have been able to recover passwords and authentication cookies from local browsers.

Another hacker was able to bypass two-factor authentication ((2FA), the safety mechanism that requires the account holder to use another verification process independent from password authentication such as through a code sent to the connected SMS number in the account. Researchers reveal that the hacker was able to direct the decoy victim to a spoofed Google login page and successfully scraped for both passwords as well as SMS coded while effectively checking the validity of both in real time.

The hacker, says the researchers, who know that he needs to bypass a 2FA actually (and usually) double his prices citing the complexity of the task. An increase in the prices for hacking Gmail accounts have been observed to grow throughout the years with $125 per account in 2017 to $400 today. Researchers posit that the improved security protocol causes the price hike by Google.

“As a whole, however, we find that the commercialized account hijacking ecosystem is far from mature,” the research team said. “We frequently encountered poor customer service, slow responses, and inaccurate advertisements for pricing.

“Further, the current techniques for bypassing 2FA can be mitigated with the adoption of U2F security keys,” they added.

In the end, the researchers concluded that while there are capable hackers, most of those who offer hacking services are either ineffective or just plain frauds. As a consequence, they said that ignoring scam sites, they didn’t view hacker-for-hire services as an actual danger for user accounts. The researchers cited high prices for hacking each account and the low quality of services the service providers provide as reasons.

“However, despite the ability to successfully deliver account access, the market exhibited low volume, poor customer service, and had multiple scammers. As such, we surmise that retail email hijacking has yet to mature to the level of other criminal market segment,” the researchers wrote in their study’s abstract.

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Apple

Privacy-Centered Web Browsers, A Marketing Strategy?

Privacy is a great thing to invest in, but the moment it becomes a selling point rather than an actual tool that helps is just wrong Click To Tweet

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Photo: scyther5/Shutterstock

If we learned anything from conferences and events held by big tech companies, it’s that everyone’s banking in with privacy. Individually, web browsers like Apple’s Safari, Google’s Chrome, and Mozilla’s Firefox are all playing catch-up with who gets to show off their latest privacy features or who has the better software that keeps people’s information safe.

Recently, the Federal government started to crackdown how tech companies collect and distribute people’s personal information. Even though they’re about a decade late, they are trying to implement more laws and regulations with how data are handled in public spaces such as the Internet.

It may be true that the government still needs to learn and understand a lot from the inner workings of the Internet, but that’s not stopping the public from raising their concerns. With increasing awareness, people are demanding tech companies to stop exploiting their data.

As the issue of privacy is continuously tackled both by the law and the public, tech companies understand that confidentiality is today’s hot commodity. So, in different events, companies are announcing innovative measures in securing your data to gain public trust and approval.

Mainly, big tech such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all differentiating themselves from Facebook who has constantly been berated in public hearings and by tech experts for consistently breaching ethical privacy standards.

In reaction, Mark Zuckerberg has continuously made big claims of turning Facebook into a more safe and private space for its consumers. At the same time, the social media platform continues to fail to fulfill its promises.

The thing is, tech companies earn their dollars through targeted advertising, which is a lot more expensive than regular advertising. However, targeted ads require a ton of personal information collected through a specified period. Facebook does this well, but web browsers do so too.

In recent events, all the big tech companies have boasted that they’re improving how users experience the Internet through their browsers. One of the most obvious ones are changes in how advertisers find you through cookies.

In simple terms, cookies are tiny bits of information that you leave when visiting a website. Cookies can be used to let the website remember who you are, like save your username and password so you would be able to log in seamlessly on your next visit.

However, cookies can also be used to track actions made while using a particular website, which in essence helps the browser create your profile, including your interests, what you search, websites you visit, etc.

What browsers does next to your established profiles is to hand them off to advertisers. This is how you see certain ads on a page that seemingly aligns with your interests.

Tech companies, however, show off that web browsers now include specific blockers that prohibit the browser in creating your profile. This blockers purpose is to secure your activities, making it harder for advertisers to track you and cater ads.

In a sense, the move is a big leap towards a more secure internet ecosystem. However, these companies introducing a privacy-centric web browser are announcing the feature as if it’s a done deal. The inadequate emphasis on how to enable the blockers by accessing your settings menu is appalling. Users-wise, they hardly customize browsers based on secured privacy settings, instead goes with anything that was handed to them.

“By not changing the default, by making it optional, Google is relying on people not changing it,” Brendan Eich, co-founder, and CEO of Brave told Recode. “Chrome users may never know this is an option.”

This is where companies like Google and Mozilla veer away from Apple. Apple has been on the lead with this feature for years. Moreover, they have enabled these blockers by default. So from a perspective, paying more is getting more.

Privacy is a great thing to invest in, but the moment it becomes a selling point rather than an actual tool that helps people from getting exploited is the time when people should start realizing how big tech is only parading privacy over than implementing it.

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Business

What’s The Next Move For Huawei?

Huawei assures users that they will still be receiving security updates and after-sales services amidst the Google/Android ban. Sources also revealed that company is poised to launch its own OS, Hongmeng, anytime soon. Click To Tweet

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Huawei assures users that they will still receive security updates and after-sales services following the Google/Android ban.
Sources revealed that Huawei is poised to release its own OS, Hongmeng. Photo: Open Grid Scheduler | Flickr | CC0 1.0

Following the decision of Google and Android to ban Huawei from contracting their services in conjunction of the government-led war against the Chinese tech giant and the executive order released by President Donald Trump, Huawei crumbles to assure users that current owners of both Huawei and Honor phones will still be receiving security updates and after-sales services.

In a short, unsubstantiated statement, Huawei highlight’s the company’s contribution to the growth of Android globally as Android phones from the company has seen unprecedented growth while other smartphone vendors are shrinking or stagnant. While the company promises the continuance of the services provided by Android to their smartphone users, and the promise extends to those units that were already shipped and in stock in stores globally, no additional guarantees were made beyond that.

“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry,” said a statement from Huawei.

“Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally […] We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,” they added.

The revocation of Huawei’s license follows after the heightened crackdown by the U.S. government on Chinese companies. Previously, the Trump administration has been lobbying to its allies to ban Huawei’s 5G technology citing that the Chinese government can use the company for espionage and economic sabotage.

The latest blow against Huawei is the decision of Google to revoke the Android license of Huawei, forcing the company to use only the open source version of the operating system. A Google spokesperson confirmed that “Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

Because of the ban, Huawei is now restricted from using the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), cutting the company off from critical Google apps and services that consumers outside of China expect on Android devices.

While existing phones from Huawei would probably be not affected by the decision, the future of updates and for those phones as well as any new phones Huawei would produce remains in question. But it seems like Huawei has prepared for the day that this would happen and already has a plan B in mind.

Earlier today, the China-based company released its very own operating system, Hongmeng. A source has confirmed that Huawei is set to officially launch Hongmeng, as the company has been working on it since 2012. The company has been testing the new OS on selected devices under closer door and closed environment. The source also said that the testing was accelerated for the new operating system to be ready for situations just like this.

Nonetheless, it is still unclear whether Hongmeng will be the official name of the OS from Huawei. Experts note that even if Huawei can successfully launch its operating system, the company will still be faced with the challenge of establishing an app ecosystem. It would take Huawei a lot of time to build apps that are compatible with the new operating system.

Huawei accounted for 19% of the worldwide smartphone market and became the second largest smartphone manufacturer, overtaking Apple, in Q1 2019.

The blunder faced by Huawei following the Google ban has caused severe market instability not only for Huawei but for the volatile US tech markets as stocks drop following the shocking decision. Huawei is dragging the entire tech industry with it as market uncertainty brought upon by the apparent tech trade wars. As Huawei’s future remains at the limbo, it brings with it the rest of the tech world.

“If this remains enforced, it’s going to create some opportunity, but companies are working with their compliance departments to get out of the way of this Huawei situation,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. That’s difficult because “Huawei has its tentacles in so many parts of the technology sector. That’s why this is not a one-day event.”

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