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Apple Face ID 5 years later: how it evolved

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Face ID

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With the launch of the iPhone X back in 2017, Apple introduced a new way of biometric authentication to the iPhone lineup called Face ID. Enabled by the TrueDepth camera system, this feature has since replaced Touch ID on each numbered iPhone model and even made its way to the iPad with the massive redesign introduced to the iPad Pro series in 2018. But five years on, is Face ID really as revolutionary as Apple made it out to be and how much better has it become?

Well, this article will try to answer that question by exploring how Apple enhanced this form of authentication while navigating through the problems it posed (and still faces), giving you an overview of its current state. I’ve also included information about its working and pointers on how I would like to see Face ID improve in the coming years.

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What makes Face ID possible?

Hardware Behind It

Apple’s transition to Face ID brought a drastic change to the iPhone. The Home Button and massive top and bottom bezels were gone. And to replace them, Apple introduced the infamous notch at the top, while the rest of the phone used a uniform black bezel — a look I honestly didn’t mind, as it was nice to see something different after years of similar-looking phones.

Now, housed within that notch are the components responsible for Face ID. The TrueDepth camera system mentioned at the beginning of this article consists of a Dot Projector, Infrared Camera, Flood Illuminator, and a 12MP front camera. These components generate information that works with the Neural Engine on your iPhone’s A Series Processor to unlock the device. We will elaborate more on this in the next segment.

How does it work?

Face ID begins the unlocking process when you glance at your device. Following the look, the Flood Illuminator detects the presence of a face and shines it with infrared light; this allows the infrared camera from the system to capture an IR image. Following this part, the Dot Projector shoots 30,000 IR dots at your face to create a unique pattern of the various surfaces — your phone also stores this information.

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The collected data is then sent to the Neural Engine on your iPhone’s SoC to create a mathematical model of your face and its features. Henceforth, whenever you try to unlock your iPhone, the device performs each of the mentioned steps in real-time and compares the generated result with the one stored on the device. A match lets you in, whereas multiple wrong attempts will disable Face ID and require the passcode configured during setup.

Is it safe to use Face ID?

A15 Bionic for iPad 9
Apple’s A Series SoC store Face ID data in an encrypted state within the Secure Enclave

While Face ID has its shortcomings, the overall convenience and security it affords users are real — especially in situations where your fingers may be wet or in those where you’re unaware of what is happening around you.

Face ID is built to require user awareness to function as intended, giving it a significant advantage over fingerprint scanners. Thus, if your eyes are closed or you’re asleep, no third party can come and unlock your device.

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Apple also has the following safeguards built to disable Face ID to prevent unauthorized access:

  • The device has recently been turned on or restarted.
  • The device has not been unlocked in over 48 hours.
  • The passcode hasn’t been entered to use the device in the last six and a half days, and Face ID wasn’t used to unlock the device in the last four hours.
  • Remote Lock has been activated for the device.
  • There have been five unsuccessful attempts to match face data.
  • The Power Off or SOS mode has been initiated.

As for the mathematical model, that entity is stored locally on your iPhone and is accessible only with an encrypted key available to the Secure Enclave in Apple’s SoC. So privacy-wise, Face ID is a significant step up, though the presence of mask mandates in regions across the world did throw a wrench in its functioning until Apple came up with some ways to circumvent the situation.


Evolution of Face ID

Now that you’ve brushed up on your knowledge of Face ID and its workings. Let us jump into the part of the article where we go over how it steadily improved to reach its current state.

Year 1 – The Introduction of Face ID

Face ID’s first year in public was one without too many changes. The period went by with exploring the capabilities provided by the authentication system, like quick access to passwords, purchase approvals, Animoji & facial expression tracking, and other features. Though, most of these were already available with Touch ID.

Overall this year ended with Face ID having somewhat-positive reception, but there was some disenchantment due to the back burner treatment Touch ID began receiving. Also, Face ID was not seen as the perfect replacement for fingerprint scanners owing to slow unlocking in unfavorable lighting conditions or other suboptimal situations.

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Year 2 – Face ID on iPad

In 2018, i.e., the second year of its availability, Face ID received two improvements, one that didn’t have an extremely significant effect and another that gives us hope for improved unlocking mechanisms.

September featured the launch of the iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max, which gave us access to the A12 Bionic. This chipset came with an 8-core Neural Engine that Apple claimed would make Face ID faster — it can complete five trillion operations per second compared to 600 billion on the A11 Bionic. To its advantage, reviewers mentioned that Face ID did feel snappier, but the next improvement Apple introduced in 2018 was the cream of the crop.

In October, Apple unveiled a redesigned iPad Pro with a near bezel-less look, and in its small display borders was Face ID hardware that allowed the device to unlock regardless of the held orientation. It featured an A12X Bionic SoC, so the improved Face ID speed was already there, but the freedom of unlocking your device from landscape or portrait was great!

I still use my 2018 11-inch iPad Pro and don’t really see the need to upgrade my tablet. Though I do wish my iPhone 12 (released in 2020) had the same Face ID capability.

Year 3 – Faster Recognition with iOS 13

iOS 13 Badge Source: Pocketnow

In Year 3, Face ID didn’t see any hardware changes, but the improvements on the software end brought about a whole new feeling. Journalists and reviewers reported that the unlocking tool now “just works.” And the user experience was miles apart if you compared any new iPhone with the iPhone X, which featured the first-generation hardware supporting Face ID.

Apple made a carefully worded statement saying that there was an “up to 30% improvement in speed” on all devices with Face ID running iOS 13. The update had the most profound effect on the latest (at the time) iPhone 11 Series.

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Year 4 – Face ID assisted by Unlock with Apple Watch

Unfortunately, Year 4 is when the bubble around Face ID came tumbling down, as, in March 2020, countries around the world began implementing mask mandates to deal with the explosive spread of COVID-19.

During this period, every time a user needed to unlock their iPhone, they would have to wait for the initial scan to fail, bringing up the passcode prompt or make a second tap to skip right over. A hassle when you’re already struggling with long queues and time constraints.

The situation led to several call-outs, asking Apple to improve Face ID to work with face masks, and slowly but surely, the company did deliver a solution. Although it also stuck to its guns by only offering a fingerprint-based authentication method on iPad Air and iPhone SE. Other iPhones and iPad Pro models launched in 2020 still depended upon Face ID.

Hence to assist users in accessing their smartphones quicker, Apple introduced Unlock with Apple Watch for iPhone. This feature allowed users who have paired Apple’s wearable with their iPhone to bypass the stringent checking of Face ID — allowing them to keep their mask on and still scan their face.

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Apple Watch Series 7 on a wrist Source: Aryan Suren

If a mask is noticed and a paired and unlocked Apple Watch is within range, your iPhone would let you in and provide a short vibratory feedback on your wrist. The vibration was a response on the Apple Watch to bring your attention to a prompt indicating that your iPhone is unlocked. If the unlock was an error, you could quickly lock your iPhone via Apple Watch to prevent unauthorized access.

Using this prompt also disables Face ID, requiring you to enter your PIN the next time you try to unlock your phone.

Year 5 – Face ID with Mask

best iPhone 13 screen protectors Source: Pocketnow

Now, while Unlock with Apple Watch allowed you to get into your iPhone, access to banking applications, Apple Pay, Keychain, and other such features were still limited. But with iOS 15.4, Apple introduced Face ID with Mask for iPhone 12 and later.

Note: Hardware-wise, Face ID saw its equipment shrunk by 20% and fit into a smaller notch on the iPhone 13 lineup. There were no claimed speed improvements.

This latest update to Face ID uses an additional set of facial scans (explained in the beginning) to collect data for a mathematical model that focuses on unique characteristics around your eyes. The update also means users can now authenticate payments and access banking applications with a mask on!

iOS 15.4 has been a godsend! Here in India, shopping at supermarkets or street stalls was always a task. In addition to holding several bags, I often found myself doing some sort of gymnastics to pull down my mask and authenticate into Google Pay to complete the payment process — waiting for the passcode prompt was an annoyance.

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This has been dramatized a bit, but if you depend on mobile payments, you probably know what I’m talking about right?

Regardless, the fifth year is still ongoing. While we don’t think we will see any more substantial changes to the authentication system until the next iPhone launches, Face ID with Mask has been a long overdue update, and we’re glad it made its way to iPhone.

What’s next for Face ID?

Improvements we’d like to see!

Before we end this article, five years on (or nearly five), Face ID is finally at a place where it can function and deal with most obstacles the current world can throw at it, but there is still some room for improvement.

Over the coming years, I would like the hardware to become capable of scanning my face at more challenging angles. Essentially, I shouldn’t have to lean over to get my device to unlock. It would also be a positive if iPhones allow users to pass through when held in landscape. iPads can do this due to the less stringent space constraints, and I hope the over-engineering geniuses at Apple can do this for the iPhone too!

iMac Face ID Source: Pocketnow

And how can I forget the Mac lineup! The latest MacBook Pro already has a notch, so they’re halfway there (joke intended), while the iMac has a decent bezel. Face ID on these devices, while not entirely necessary in my opinion, would still be great to have!

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These wishes are probably at the top of the list for many of our readers, but if you have some of your own suggestions, feel free to let us know in the comments below. Perhaps we can have a great discussion over the tech that we love and use.

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Editorial

What does 150W fast charging really mean

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Fast charging 2
Source: Pocketnow

During Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022, several companies announced 150W charging technologies, and OPPO went as far as presenting an even faster, 240W SuperVOOC flash charge technology. HONOR went as far as releasing the world’s first 100W fast wireless charging device, the Magic 4 Pro. The difference between a provided 5W charger and a 65W charger is significant, and it could save you valuable time since it requires much less time to charge up your smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, and even your laptop.

Fast charging is taking off rapidly, and it’s now supported in most products out there, including smartwatches, wireless earbuds, headphones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even in electric cars (EVs). There are, however, a number of different charging technologies out there, and they’re not all the same. This article will try to explain the differences and why fast charging is very important and useful.

What is fast charging?

Fast charging is often referred to as the output of the charge, which is measured in amperage and voltages. If you multiply the volts by the amperage, you will get the wattage. The higher the wattage, the faster the charging. As a result of fast charging, you will often also notice the generated heat in both the device and the wall charger itself. Most wall adapters have safety technology and heat dissipation solutions to mitigate the problem, making them safe to use.

Who supports fast charging?

Best Galaxy S22 fast chargers
Fast chargers made by Samsung
Source: Pocketnow

Most companies and chip makers support wireless charging. The list includes Apple, Google, Samsung, Motorola, OnePlus, OPPO, HUAWEI, Sony, and more. There are a lot of different fast-charging technologies, and some are proprietary to specific brands and devices.

For instance, companies like Apple don’t allow iPhones to be charged at 20W+ speeds since the phones are restricted in software and hardware. Apple’s explanation is safety, but it’s clear that Apple makes a lot of money from selling its proprietary 20W adapters. This shows that not all wall adapters are created equal, and vendors can limit access and charging rates to non-first-party devices for various reasons. The Samsung Galaxy S22 only supports up to 25W wired fast charging, and even if you use a 65W wall adapter, the device will be limited to 25W charging speeds.

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Why is fast charging important?

Fast charging makes our lives easier, and it charges our gadgets a lot faster. It’s convenient. An iPhone with a 5W charger could take as long as nearly 3 hours to fully charge while using a 20W wall adapter will reduce that to about one 1 hour and 30 minutes. That’s a significant difference. A device like the OnePlus 9 Pro uses a 65W wall adapter and a 4,500 mAh battery. The OnePlus 9 Pro can go from 0 to 99% in just 30 minutes, and it takes about half an hour, on average, to get it fully charged.

With such fast speeds, you can change your habit of putting your phone on the charger at night. If your device supports fast charging, you can quickly put your phone on charge in the morning, and by the time you’re ready to leave, it will be fully charged. There are other, mainly Asian, manufacturers out there who support even faster technologies, while the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Google will likely take a few more years to implement those technologies.

Types of fast charging technologies

There are a lot of different fast-charging technologies out there, and there is no standard set by the global vendors. Many charging solutions differentiate themselves by the rate of speed, and the charging solution, and we’ve collected a few to demonstrate the differences.

  • OPPO and OnePlus: up to 80W SuperVOOC Flash Charge
  • Apple: up to 20W Fast Charger (for iPhones), PD 2.0
  • Samsung: up to 45W Fast Charging, PD 3.0
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 5: 100W+
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 2 and 3: It’s supported by most manufacturers and devices, such as the older Galaxy S and Note series, Google Pixel devices, LG phones, and many more. Older Quick Charge technologies allow fast charging, but at slower speeds compared to the most recent QC 5.

For demonstration purposes, if you want to charge your iPhone with a 45W Samsung adapter, you will be limited to 10W or 15W, due to Apple’s restrictions. Manufacturers always recommend using first-party accessories and cables to charge up the device, since it’s certified and it’s documented to work best. That being said, other vendors go through the same certification and safety process, and there’s often no reason why a USB-C cable wouldn’t be able to charge a different device. However, some cables will indeed be capped at slower charging speeds. These “capped” speeds are implemented by manufacturers to prevent accidents to other “non-compatible” devices.

There are also wireless charging technologies that provide charging at different rates. The standard wireless charger will often provide 5V/1A, which is 5W. There are faster technologies out there used by Google and Samsung that provide 20-30W wireless charging speeds, and manufacturers like HONOR, OPPO have 30-100W technologies that allow for even faster charging. The main issue about using wireless technologies is heating, and the fact that most chargers don’t yet have an effective way to cool down. Converting power and charging via wireless wastes a lot of power and generates a lot of heat. That being said, wireless charging is more convenient as you can just gently drop your phone on the wireless charger and call it a day. This technology will improve over time, and we’re already seeing 100W solutions that mitigate the problem and generate less heat.

OPPO 150W SuperVooc charger size
OPPO 150W SuperVooc charger size
Source: OPPO

Fast chargers are also becoming a lot smaller than traditional wall adapters thanks to gallium nitride (GaN), allowing for more efficient and compact adapters. What was previously a massive brick providing 100W of power to laptops and other accessories is now a conventional wall adapter, providing 60W+ speeds to smartphones and other devices.

Battery degradation

A lot of people avoid using fast charging, claiming that it will destroy battery life. While that claim does have some proof behind it, it’s negligible, and majority of users will not see a a change to their battery life when using fast charging solutions. The fact is that fast charging a smartphone generates more heat than using slower technologies, which impacts the battery life in the long term. If you charge your device regularly with a fast charger, the battery will eventually lose a little bit of capacity that will be wasted, but it’s not much more than conventional “slow” charging bricks that are capped at 5W. The benefits outweigh the cons, and it’s completely normal for the battery to lose up to 20% of its capacity after two years of regular use. Batteries are consumable components and need to be replaced after a specific time and number of uses.

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Conclusion

With all that said, this isn’t meant to be a scientific study, and we only just wanted to highlight the many different charging solutions and technologies out there. We wanted to show you that fast charging technologies have become even more important in this day and age, and we most certainly recommend that you purchase a solution that is supported for your current, and future devices.

Manufacturers no longer include wall adapters in the box, and now is a great time to go out and buy a fast wall adapter that you can use for many years going forward. If you don’t have the budget, we would recommend a 60W+ wall adapter to future-proof yourself for the next few years, but a simple 20-30W charger will also serve you just fine, and they’re considered affordable, costing anywhere between $15-$30. Big companies such as Apple, Samsung, Google, and others are still not offering true fast charging speeds, although they have gotten better over the years. The charging technologies used by many Asian companies such as Xiaomi and OPPO have already proven that their technologies don’t neglect safety, and the durability of the battery cell remains the same when charged at such high speeds.

Our website has several collections of the best Galaxy S22 fast chargers, Galaxy S21 chargers, best iPhone 13 chargers, Pixel 6 chargers, and more. Our recommended chargers include first-party and third-party adapters, and they’re all certified to work with most devices, not just the ones highlighted in the article. As always, make sure to do your research and only purchase from reputable companies and sources.

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How to keep communicating when your internet is disrupted

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Briar
Source: Pocketnow

People love sending electronic messages to each other on their smartphones these days, but in times of conflict and societal struggle, secure, private, & fast communications can save lives. There’s hundreds of electronic messaging apps out there that depend on the internet. Most are designed in a centralized way so that the owning company can be in control of its users (and maybe spy on them or censor them or profit off of them). Things like WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal, Threema, and Telegram are relatively easy to block or take control of since they’re all using centralized servers. Centralized servers are bad for privacy, security, and self agency, too, since you can’t control them yourself and you can’t audit them to see what they’re really doing. They’ve got a good single point of failure for attacking, too. Other federated messaging systems like Matrix, Delta Chat, or email are more open to self-agency and flexible/innovative client/server upgrades that anyone can do. Those are harder to shut down or spy on especially if you’ve customized the clients/servers with various encryption methods. A large web of federated servers helps a lot with sustainability and stability, too. All of that doesn’t really matter at all if you’re in a country where the internet gets turned off completely though. So that’s why we need a totally serverless mesh network like Briar. 

But first, electricity

Whether the internet is on or not, you’re still going to need electricity for your phone or other devices. Phone batteries don’t last for weeks and weeks like they used to 20 years ago. One issue with Briar is that since there are no servers running push notifications, it needs to be running in the background all the time. Using TOR connections takes up a lot of battery life as well. If the electrical grid goes down, spots to charge your battery might be hard to find. You might want to invest in a solar charging battery that can be charged by the sunlight. Amazon has plenty of choices for that kind of thing if the shipping channels are still open. You’ll want something with folding solar panels that can absorb more electricity than the smaller ones. For example: Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank with 4 Solar Panels

Briar

If you have an Android device, you should install this while you still have internet. Briar is a mesh network messaging app that can connect directly with other users over WiFi or Bluetooth. It can also work over the actual internet (using the triple encrypted TOR network) if available, but the key here is that it doesn’t require the internet at all. However, with a direct Bluetooth connection you’re limited in the sense that each node on the mesh network needs to be within range of other nodes. So this is great for more dense populations such as those in Cities or refugees hiding in subway stations or bomb shelters. Again, it doesn’t require any internet connection or cellular phone towers, just WiFi or Bluetooth radios on your devices. That means you can totally communicate underground as long as each person is within range of another person.

Get an Android 4.1+ device that can run Briar. 

If you only have an Apple iPhone, you should consider diversifying your tech a bit as Apple basically owns their ecosystem and has extensive control over their devices. Apple could easily limit any of their devices if they decide they don’t like the country you live in or the USA decides they don’t like a country you live in. Bridgefy is an app option that will do something similar to Briar on Apple’s iOS, but it’s closed-source (which means it requires trust), it’s a USA based company, and it’s financed by advertising. It uses centralized servers for sign-up and requires your phone number too, so that’s not good news if you need privacy.

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Android is based on an open-source project which makes it easier for you to maintain self-agency over the software (although many manufacturers also try hard to remove your ability for self-agency on Android as well). If you can afford an iPhone, you can also afford a $30 Android phone or tablet as a backup. An iPhone isn’t going to be very useful when the internet goes down anyway. Also see: “Will there be an iOS version of Briar?” I got a couple Alcatel OneTouch IDEAL android phones for $10 each, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a cheap Android device for emergency communications. Here are a few other inexpensive choices that you can find on Amazon:

  1. Caoy Android 5.1 phone $23
  2. Alcatel TCL A3 $39
  3. BLU Advanced L5 $39
  4. Amazon Fire 7 Tablet $49

Get the software

Somebody needs to download the app from the Internet before the internet goes down. You can get Briar from F-Droid, Google Play, or a direct APK download.  It’s only available on Android and Linux at the moment so you’re going to need a device with one of those operating systems. The desktop Linux version is available in .DEB or .JAR versions or you can compile from source, but it’s still being developed and all of the features of the Android app aren’t yet available on Linux.

After you install the software, it will ask you for a nickname and password. That’s all. The password is just an app password too; it doesn’t go to a server anywhere and there’s no way to recover it (so don’t forget the password you make.) The app doesn’t ask you for any personal information at all; no phone number, no email address, no credit card info… nothing. That’s how you can tell that this is a serious privacy respecting application.

How to use Briar

Use the software to share the installer with offline users

Briar app sharing
Source: Pocketnow

The Briar Android app has built-in WiFi sharing capabilities so that you can send the app’s installation files to other people over WiFi without having internet access. In the settings there’s an item called “Share this app offline”. If you tap that, it will start the instructions.  First it will turn your phone into a WiFi hotspot.  Give the WiFi hotspot access point name and password to whomever is nearby that wants to install the app. Once they connect, continue the instructions and the next step will be to tell the other people to open their web browser and type in a specific URL.  This URL will load the web server on your phone and that web server will display a page to all of your users with a download button.  Once they tap the Download button, they will download the APK install file from your phone to their devices.  Once the download is finished, they can open the APK and install the Briar app.  They may need to change some settings to allow installing apps from the web browser, but that should be an easy thing.

Add each other as contacts

Now that you’ve got Briar installed on some other devices, you need to add each other as contacts. There are two ways to do this. The most secure method is the “add contact nearby” option. In the “Contacts” screen, tap the “+” button at the bottom right and choose “add contact nearby”.  This will give you a warning about meeting the person you want to connect to in real life in order to ensure that no one is being impersonated. Tap “Continue” and it will ask to make Bluetooth discoverable and then load a QR code along with a camera viewfinder.  You’ll want to be in light mode on Huawei or Xiaomi phones for this to work because their forced dark-mode feature can interfere with the display of the QR code. Use your phone to scan the QR code of your contact and allow your contact to scan the QR code on your phone. This will create a contact pairing that will allow you to communicate on the mesh network.  Repeat the “add contact nearby” command for everyone that you want to connect with.

This is a lot more work than adding contacts on other messaging platforms and the reason for that is security. It’s really stupid to use phone numbers as identifiers on messaging apps since phone numbers can be associated with all sorts of other activities. Plus, it’s a bad idea to have too many dependencies that can easily be compromised. Briar’s dependencies are basically… electricity, Android/Linux device, and a Bluetooth radio. It will be very difficult to compromise any of those.

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Briar
Source: Pocketnow

Now that you have contacts, you can send messages! There isn’t anything super crazy about the messaging features in Briar. You can “type message, press send” just like all other messaging apps of the past 40 years. You can also send photos or images and you can insert emoji. No voice messages or video calls or video message filters or silly stickers or goofy 3D animations, but that’s ok… in times of struggle, you’re probably going to become an adult who doesn’t care about that kid’s stuff real quick.

Private messages are only synchronized directly between the sender and receiver, so you’ll need to be within range. The messages will sync to the intended recipients when you are within range over Bluetooth, or if you’re both on the same WiFi network, or if you both have TOR access on the internet.

Another awesome feature in Briar is the ability to “introduce” contacts to other contacts. So for example if I want to enable two of my contacts to be able to message each other privately, I can navigate to one of them, tap the three dots menu in the upper right, choose “Make Introduction”, select another contact to share the first contact with, and then both contacts will get a notification that they can choose to accept in order to enable the new contact connection.

Groups and Forums

Briar
Source: Pocketnow

You can also create private groups for group messaging or forums for sharing conversations with large numbers of people. With a private group, the person who created the group is the only one who can add more users to it. The creator can also dissolve the group.  With forums, anyone can share the forum conversation with anyone else. Unfortunately groups and forums don’t support group-wide image sharing yet.

A forum is probably going to be the best choice to keep a group of offline users in communication. If you introduce all contacts within the forum to each other so that they become contacts for themselves, that will ensure that any members within range can synchronize all of the forum messages.

Blogs

Briar Blogs
Source: Pocketnow

The Blog section is really interesting. You can write blog posts and whomever is connected to you will be able to read it, but there’s also an “RSS Feed” section where you can import an RSS feed from any website and then share that RSS feed with other contacts. So if one person has access to the internet, they can get an updated RSS feed from whatever website filled with news posts and then everyone else on Briar who maybe does not have direct access to the internet will get those RSS feed news posts too. Very clever! If you don’t know what an RSS feed is, RSS stands for really simple syndication and it’s basically an XML file that lists a certain number of the latest news posts or updates on a specific website. Most websites have these available for subscribing to from any RSS reader application.

SneakerNet

That’s right, Briar even supports sharing content via the SneakerNet! What’s the sneakernet you say?  That’s when you copy the messages to a disk, take the disk out of the computer, put your sneakers on, run to another computer, and plug the disk into the other computer. You can now copy messages to an external USB disk on one phone, have somebody run to a different phone, plug the disk in, and then load them into another phone or device. Everything is encrypted so that only your intended contact will recieve the content. They’ll also get the updated forums, groups, and blog messages from your device. If you don’t want to have some one run between devices with their sneakers on, you could also probably attach the USB disk to a pigeon trained to fly between locations (FeatherNet).

Synchronizing encrypted messages to a USB or SD disk can also be useful for carrying communications across borders more discreetly than if they were on a smartphone.

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The Onion Router (TOR) transfer

As mentioned earlier, if you do have internet access, Briar can use TOR to transfer the messages securely. The Onion Router (TOR) is a network of servers that encrypt internet traffic across multiple nodes. This way each node doesn’t have very much information about the network traffic or where it’s going. If TOR connections are blocked in your country, you can also configure Briar to use bridges to get to TOR. Here’s some more information about how TOR works:

Briar on Linux

Briar on Linux
Source: Pocketnow

There’s also a desktop version of Briar that’s in the works for Linux desktop systems. It’s still in development so all of the features from the Android app are not available yet. Most of the features are not available yet actually, but you can still connect to contacts one to one and share messages or images securely. The Linux desktop app is being made in a way that should make it easy to port to MacOS and Windows in the future, though with the Linux subsystem on Windows you could probably run it as is right now.

Use a WiFi router to increase range

If you have no internet connections on Briar, it can use Bluetooth to transfer messages and pictures as we have shown, but if you can get some WiFi network access points online, that can improve the range of the mesh network. This will be useful even if the WiFi access points don’t have access to the internet as everyone on Briar will be able to transfer messages across a larger range of people. Turning a phone into a WiFi hotspot works as well.

More about how Briar works

Are you a developer?

Briar is open source and being developed by a very small number of people so if you think you can help, be sure to check out the source code and join the development mailing list. They will welcome donations on Liberapay as well.

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Editorial

Best of MWC 2022: these are the best devices at this year’s show

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Many trade shows are often ripe with products and ideas that tend to set the tone for the future to come, and MWC 2022, the premier event revolving around mobile technology, does just that! This year in Barcelona, brands and the organizations behind them have made countless announcements, be it iterative upgrades to existing products or the opening of all-new avenues for their business.

But certain products and advancements often stand out from the crowd due to the new propositions they bring, and we intend to honor them. With that introduction out of the way, in no particular order, here is Pocketnow Awards for the Best of MWC 2022.

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HUAWEI MateBook E

HUAWEI MateBook E
Source: HUAWEI

HUAWEI, like many others, had many announcements at MWC, spanning across various categories including an e-ink device, an All-in-One PC, and laptops. But the device that stood out for us was the Huawei MateBook E due to its productivity-based on-the-go design.

This 2-in-1 Windows 11-based device comes with a 12.6-inch OLED display with 600 nits of peak brightness and support for the second generation of HUAWEI’s M-Pencil, which now features 2ms of response time and has 4096 levels of pressure sensitivity. Not many tablet displays get this bright, and because it is something with a possibility of being used outdoors, this is a huge positive.

On the performance front, Huawei offers choices between the 11th gen i3, i5, and i7 processors, bundled with Intel UHD or Iris Xe Graphics. The device also comes with 8GB of RAM for its base configuration and has internal storage options ranging from 128GB up to 512GB — these will all be NVMe PCIe SSDs.

Huawei MateBook E 2022

HUAWEI MateBook E

HUAWEI MateBook E features a 12.6-inch OLED display and is powered by 11th gen processors from Intel. If you are looking for a convertible capable of handling simple to moderately heavy workloads, this is a device worth considering.


HONOR Magic 4 Pro

HONOR Magic 4 series colors
HONOR Magic 4 series colors
Source: HONOR

After launching a foldable device early last month, at MWC 2022, the phone maker is out and about with two flagship devices, part of the HONOR Magic 4 Series, the standard HONOR Magic 4 and its more premium sibling, the HONOR Magic 4 Pro, which is also the recipient of this award.

With the HONOR Magic 4 Pro, buyers will get the opportunity to experience a large 6.81-inch LTPO OLED panel (with a resolution of 1224 x 2664) that refreshes at 120Hz, can hit 1000 nits of peak brightness, and also has an HDR 10+ rating. And like most 2022 flagships, this device also sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 bundled with 8GB or 12GB of RAM and 256GB or 512GB of internal storage.

The factors that differentiate it from the standard Magic 4 are its 64MP periscope telephoto sensor, the 3D-depth camera — responsible for Face Unlock — and faster-charging capability. This device can accept 100W of power through wired and wireless mediums.

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HONOR claims the flagship performer can go from zero to 100% in just 30 minutes when using a cable and zero to 50% in 15 minutes when using wireless charging.

HONOR Magic 4 Pro Product Image

HONOR Magic 4 Pro

HONOR Magic 4 Pro comes with a 6.81-inch LTPO OLED panel that promises stunning visuals. And packaged inside it is the latest processor from Qualcomm bundled with up to 12GB of RAM, this is a setup that promises uncompromised performance especially since it’s backed by a huge battery and 100W charging.


Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1

ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 with home menu on its screen
Source: Pocketnow

Windows on ARM hasn’t had the impact with the breakneck speed that Apple’s M1 processors carried on the Mac lineup. The MacBook Air, which earlier struggled to edit videos was suddenly able to chug through high-quality footage with relative ease.

But after a few years of development and x64 compatibility having finally made its way to products, ARM-based Windows devices might finally get a chance to shine, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 is a device that we believe interested buyers will appreciate.

Pocketnow’s Adam Z. Lein had the opportunity to spend some time with this particular unit. He believes the optimization of the third generation Snapdragon 8cx — which powers the Lenovo — will be a game-changer. He particularly mentioned one use case where the device only uses 3% of the CPU’s prowess to handle video calls and keep cool, whereas his older devices used to get quite hot. This particular device also seems to be getting ready for enterprise usage.

So if you’ve been looking for a Windows-based device that offers impeccable battery life — Lenovo claims 28 hours of use between chargers — this might be a unit worth checking out.

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Lenovo Thinkpad X13s Gen 1 Product Image

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Gen 1 is the device to keep your eye on if you’re interested in the advancements of Windows on ARM. The laptop ships with the latest Snapdragon 8cx chipset and boasts 28 hours of battery life on a single charge.


OPPO SuperVOOC 150

OPPO 150W SuperVooc Flash Charge MWC 2022
Source: OPPO

Waiting for a device to charge has always been a pain point, and we bet it stings when you think you’ve left your phone plugged in, only to later realize that it hasn’t topped up. Now, while the rapid growth of fast charging systems has made such situations a lot more bearable, OPPO plans on making this wait time even shorter with its 150W SuperVOOC technology.

OPPO claims its 150W SuperVOOC charger can power a 4500 mAh battery from 0 to 100% in 15 minutes, a huge step up from its 65W charging tech, which needs 40 minutes of your time. The company also mentioned that this new tech does keep in mind the aspect of battery health, maintaining 80% of a battery’s original capacity even after 1600 charging cycles.

The main components involved in bringing to fruition the capability of this product are its GaN inner components and battery management system. The latter of which does real-time tracking of electric potential across the negative electrodes of the battery and adjusts the current supplied.

If you are excited about seeing this technology hit the hands of customers, your wait will not be too long, as the first device to implement will be a OnePlus device set to launch in Q2 of 2022.


Realme GT2 Pro

Back of the Realme GT2 Pro
Source: Pocketnow

Realme has constantly made waves in the market due to its value proposition-based devices. And at MWC 2022, we finally got information regarding the international availability of its most premium flagship, the Realme GT2 Pro.

When it launched in China at the beginning of the year, many spoke of its design, made by Naoto Fukasawa, and the implementation of a bio-based polymer which are unique aspects that add value to the essence of the device.

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But let us focus on the display a little, which is honestly one of the most attractive components of this unit. Realme GT2 Pro ships with a flat 6.7-inch 2K AMOLED LTPO 2.0 display. And not only does this give it a peak brightness of 1400 nits but even brings advantages like its 1000Hz touch sampling rate.

Speaking of the rest of its specifications: the device will ship with the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, bundled with 8GB or 12GB of RAM and 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of internal storage. And speaking of cameras, you will find a respectable set comprising a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor, another 50MP Ultra-wide unit, and a 2MP macro lens. A 5000 mAh battery, capable of 65W wired charging, is powering this device.

Realme GT2 Pro Product Image

Realme GT2 Pro

Realme GT2 Pro flaunts a flat 6.7-inch 2K AMOLED LTPO 2.0 display and is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and handles multitasking with ease. It’s the first flagship Realme has made and is a great all-round device to consider, especially if its design speaks to you.


Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 in tent mode
Source: Pocketnow

Work from Home or Hybrid Work arrangements have become the standard for many over the last two years, and with this change came the need for modifications to the devices we use daily. And the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 is one of those combinations that aims to address the use cases that we now face.

The new laptop is available in two sizes, a 13.3-inch, and a 15.6-inch version. Both models also use FHD Super AMOLED panels that can reach 500 nits of peak brightness for HDR content. There is also support for the S Pen, which is included in the box.

Bundled with the latest Intel 12th Gen processor — plus an Intel EVO certification — LPDDR5 RAM, and NVMe SSD-based storage, we bet this powerhouse of a device will serve as a great pick for users immersing themselves into the ecosystem of Galaxy products.

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Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 Product Image

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360

The successor to Galaxy Book Pro 360 features two size options and hardware that is hard to match in terms of quality. If you need a device that’s great when on the go and features a great display, this is one you should keep an eye on.


TCL NXTPAPER MAX 10

TCL NXTPAPER MAX 10 laid flat on a table with HUAWEI M Pen
Source: Pocketnow

Being a reputable brand already well-established for its displays, TCL has been making several forays into the smartphone and tablet categories to make a new name for itself, and this year at MWC 2022, it announced several new affordable smartphones and tablets. And out of these, the TCL NXTPAPER Max 10 stood out due to its odd approach towards a tablet screen.

The TCL NXTPAPER MAX 10 might not be the most appealing when you see its specifications on a sheet of paper. It features a MediaTek MT8788 chipset, only 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage (which is expandable) and will possibly ship with Android 11 out of the box, but that FHD+ 10.36-inch display on the front is why we awarded this device.

The textured panel offers much less glare than typical LCDs, and the paper-like feel is quite unique. And due to its hardware, the device is likely to be best suited for reading, and perhaps some note taking activities for which its display will be perfect.

Note: The tablet has an 8000 mAh cell which supports 18W fast charging over USB C.

TCL NXTPAPER MAX 10

TCL NXTPAPER MAX 10

TCL NXTPAPER MAX 10 has a 10.36-inch display with a unique texture that allows it to offer much lesser glare than traditional panels. Powering the hardware on this tablet is the MediaTek MT8788 processor and an 8000 mAh cell that is also capable of 18W fast charging.

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