Don’t Install The Google Authenticator For iOS Update, Unless You Want Your Stored User Accounts Wiped

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Google today pushed an update out for Google Authenticator for iOS, the two-factor authentication companion app that makes your Google account and services where you use it to login more secure. But it’s an update users will want to avoid for now, as it erases all your existing stored data and connected accounts, according to multiple tipsters who’ve contacted TechCrunch.

The Authenticator app works by providing users with a timed, expiring randomly-generated numeric code they use to sign into services along with their password. It adds an extra layer of security, since it’s very difficult for someone attempting to access your account without permission to trump both the authenticator code and the password check.

Updating the app removes all your existing accounts, with users complaining in reviews for the update that they’ve lost their Dropbox, Google Apps, DreamHost, Twilio, Evernote and other tokens after updating and have been forced to sync each over again. It could  leave you locked out of your accounts entirely and forced to contact support for a reset, as Dashlane’s co-founder Alexis Fogel tells us is happening with his service, and it’s something that will also result in an awful lot of unnecessary busy work to set up things that have already been set up before.

Chance are Google will roll out a bug-busting update to this update that fixes the account wiping problem sometime soon, so the best course of action for now is to hold off on updating this specific application. For now Dashlane is also advising its users to disable Google Authentication before they update if they still feel they must, but letting that update linger is still the best course of action. We’ve reached out to Google to see if they can provide a fix for anyone who has already updated, or if they have a timeline for when an update fixing the bug might be pushed out to the iOS App Store. We’ll update when we know more.

Balky carriers and slow OEMs step aside: Google is defragging Android

Android 4.3 was released to Nexus devices a little over a month ago, but, as is usual with Android updates, it’s taking much longer to roll out the general public. Right now, a little over six percent of Android users have the latest version. And if you pay attention to the various Android forums out there, you may have noticed something: no one cares.

4.3’s headline features are a new camera UI, restricted user profiles, and support for new versions of Bluetooth and OpenGL ES. Other than the camera, these are all extremely dull, low-level enhancements. It’s not that Google is out of ideas, or the Android team is slowing down. Google has purposefully made every effort to make Android OS updates as boring as possible.

Why make boring updates? Because getting Samsung and the other OEMs to actually update their devices to the latest version of Android is extremely difficult. By the time the OEMs get the new version, port their skins over, ship a build to carriers, and the carriers finally push out the OTA update, many months pass. If the device isn’t popular enough, this process doesn’t happen at all. Updating a phone is a massive project involving several companies, none of which seem to be very committed to the process or in much of a hurry to get it done.

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Fly Or Die: Motorola Moto X

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The Moto X has caused a rift between the TechCrunch Gadgets family. Chris Velazco and I think it’s just fine, whereas Darrell Etherington and John Biggs are rather unimpressed.

But why?

Well, the Moto X is Motorola’s first real Google phone, with pure Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, customizable back plating, a 4.7-inch 720p display, a 10-megapixel camera, and a dual-core Snapdragon processor running the show.

Under the hood, you’ll find 16GB of internal storage and 2GB of RAM.

In other words, the specs are right on par for a phone of this price ($199 on-contract) but nothing to write home about. There isn’t one feature of this phone that truly sets it apart or above any other phone, except maybe the customizable back panel, giving the user slightly more cellular flare than was previously available.

Pure Android, without any of that TouchWiz, Sense, Motoblur crap is actually quite wonderful, and voice-activated Google Now is a nice touch. But like Siri, it’s not always dependable.

It’s hard to come down to a solid conclusion with this guy. Still, whether you’re excited like Chris, ambivalent like myself, bored like John, or actively against the Moto X like Darrell, the phone itself seems to have a solid build at a fair price.

You can also listen to us argue about the Moto X here on the TC Gadgets podcast.

7-Eleven, Home of the Big Gulp — and Multimillion Dollar Venture Capital Investments

Consumers tend to associate 7-Eleven mainly with Slurpees, Big Gulps, and hot dogs left under the heat lamp too long. So what is the real world’s Kwik-E-Mart doing by jumping into the sophisticated world of venture capitalism? In recent months, 7-Eleven launched a venture capital arm called 7-Ventures and began investing in companies such as Belly, an innovative smartphone loyalty and payment program. To the average consumer, the idea that a forward-thinking outfit like Google has a venture capital operation makes sense because the company is obviously keen on innovation and technology. The fact that the company best known for Slurpee giveaways is now putting money into startups may sound puzzling. However, Yael V. Hochberg, an expert on entrepreneurship and a professor of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, explained in a recent interview that the launch of 7-Ventures should come as no big surprise. “It’s becoming more common nowadays for companies to do this sort of thing,” she said. Long ago, large companies tended to have in-house research and development departments working on the products and services that could hopefully help the business down the road. But over the years, Hochberg explained, a preference developed for what’s known as “outsourced R&D,” in which startups and smaller businesses take on the risks of creating new tools and technologies, and larger companies get involved later via mergers and acquisitions or investments. (MORE: Twitter Plans to Become a Shopping Destination) In the ’80s and ’90s, it was typical for big companies to make venture capital investments with an eye for pure profit. “They were simply looking for financial returns,” said Hochberg. Lately, though, she said that VC arms are more likely to make investments that are “somewhat strategic in nature,” with the business being funded and encouraged to grow being one that is likely to somehow help the larger company. Pharmaceutical, health care, and tech companies are all regulars in the VC world. Companies that have some of the world’s best-known brands are jumping in as well. General Motors’ GM Ventures,

Google Confirms It Has Acquired Android Smartwatch Maker WIMM Labs

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Google has confirmed it acquired WIMM Labs last year, a company that previously made an Android-powered smartwatch before shuttering operations in 2012. At the time a message on its website said it had entered into an exclusive partnership without releasing further details, but it’s now clear that partner was Google, rather than Apple as some had initially speculated. Google’s WIMM Labs acquisition was reported earlier by Gigaom.

Google is rumoured to be developing a smartwatch of its own, with patents turning up earlier this year (filed in 2011), and a report by the FT that claimed Google’s Android team was in the process of developing such a device. Google has also hinted at Android powering a range of wearable devices in the past, when CEO Larry Page let slip during a quarterly earnings call this year that Glass runs on its smartphone and tablet OS, and that Android is “pretty transportable across devices”. Google has also long had bigger ambitions for Android than just pushing it onto phones and tablets, with TV set-top boxes, in-car tech, home automation and wearables all areas where it’s actively encouraging Android to spread.

WIMM Labs started out building Android-based platforms for wearable displays, akin to Google Glass, and then created the WIMM One in 2011: a smartwatch powered by Android 2.1 that was aimed at developers as a sort of concept flagship ahead of a broader consumer launch. The WIMM One used Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g for connectivity, had 256 MB of RAM plus a 667MHz processor, and used a screen design that refreshed once per minute to conserve battery life. It also supported apps via a “Micro App Store” — installed and managed by users via a web-based dashboard. Android developers were offered custom APIs for adapting their software to the WIMM One’s tiny, 16-bit colour screen.

Google is not commenting further on the acquisition at this point, beyond providing confirmation that it picked up WIMM Labs in 2012. If Mountain View is building its own smartwatch it’s unlikely to beat its Android OEM partner Samsung to a launch, as the Korean company’s Galaxy Gear device is probably going to be unboxed next week in Berlin at a September 4 event. Plenty of other Android-powered smartwatches are also entering the frame via crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, and also cropping up on the roadmaps of other Android OEMs. Meanwhile Apple’s rumoured iWatch remains elusive.

If Google isn’t building its own smartwatch hardware, acquiring WIMM Labs could be a way to help it develop a custom version of Android designed for wrist-mounted wearables, which it could then provide to OEMs the same way it currently does with Android proper. Given the amount of interest in smartwatches from OEMs big and small, that could be the better strategy for longterm platform growth.

Surprise! It looks like Google’s been planning a smartwatch for quite a while

The watch wars are quickly heating up, and Google seems to have been quietly working on a product for longer than anyone had previously imagined. Almost 2 years ago, WIMM Labs released the WIMM One, one of the first Android smartwatches. Several months later, the company essentially shut down and replaced most of its website with this message:

Almost three years ago WIMM set out to make information more personal, accessible, and connected. The WIMM One proved the concept and inspired many to take a fresh look at wearable technology.

During the summer of 2012, WIMM Labs entered into an exclusive, confidential relationship for our technology and ceased sales of the Developer Preview Kit. Existing WIMM One owners can continue to synchronize their devices at this time as well as contact us at help@wimm.com.

We’d like to thank all of our developers for their interest and willingness to experiment with our platform and look forward to exciting advances in the wearable market.

Today, GigaOM is reporting that the shutdown was due to an acquisition by Google. The company stealthily purchased WIMM a year ago and merged it with the Android team. Since then, it has been quietly working to fulfill Google’s smartwatch ambitions.

GigaOM points out that Woodside Capital Partners, the investment bank that assisted with the deal, spilled the beans on its website with the image you see above. Several WIMM employees have also updated their Linkedin profiles with their new employer.

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US won’t let Microsoft, Google reveal more data on FISA orders

Microsoft and Google have not been able to convince the Department of Justice (DOJ) to let the tech companies reveal how many Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders they must comply with.

Noting that “there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith today wrote that the companies are united in trying to provide more information about orders that allow the government to spy on the companies’ customers:

We both remain concerned with the Government’s continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders.

Each of our companies filed suit in June to address this issue. We believe we have a clear right under the US Constitution to share more information with the public. The purpose of our litigation is to uphold this right so that we can disclose additional data.

On six occasions in recent weeks we agreed with the Department of Justice to extend the Government’s deadline to reply to these lawsuits. We hoped that these discussions would lead to an agreement acceptable to all. While we appreciate the good faith and earnest efforts by the capable Government lawyers with whom we negotiated, we are disappointed that these negotiations ended in failure.

While Smith noted the US government has said it would start “publishing the total number of national security requests for customer data for the past 12 months and do so going forward once a year,” he wrote that Microsoft and Google believe the public is constitutionally entitled to more than that.

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Nokia Kicks Its Auto Ambitions Into High Gear With Connected Driving, A Cross-Platform Suite Of In-Car Navigation Services and Smartphone Apps

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While Nokia continues to work on clawing back some of the once-market-leading smartphone business it has lost in the last few years to Apple and Android handset makers like Samsung, it has also slowly been building out a business based around its mapping and navigation division, rebranded as HERE earlier this year. That strategy — which has seen deals with the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW and Garmin for its in-car navigation systems — is going into high gear today. Nokia is launching Connected Driving, which included HERE Auto for embedded in-car navigation; HERE Auto Cloud for extra services like real-time traffic updates; and HERE Auto Companion, apps that will make it seamless to link up location data that you want to use or that you’ve created in your car, with what you are doing when you are outside the car and using your smartphone instead. On top of this, it’s upgrading its HERE Traffic system with a new data processing engine called “Halo.”

The launch today, in some regards, represents one of Nokia’s biggest challenges yet: it’s pitching itself as an operating system provider for other hardware makers (car companies; in-car system makers) to use as the platform for new products. Call it Nokia’s Android strategy.

Nokia is announcing the new products today and will be unveiling this suite of services at the the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany on September 10. As with the rest of the products in HERE, Nokia’s intention is for all of this to be interoperable with different smartphone platforms. What that will mean in theory is that while HERE Auto and Auto Cloud will be loaded on to in-car systems, the apps in the Auto Companion will be launched for multiple platforms, including iOS and Android. In practice, though, Floris van de Klashorst, VP of connected cars for HERE, tells me that it’s likely that we will see the first services to be built on the platform that Nokia itself uses for smartphones, Windows Phone.

A rundown of the new services:

HERE Auto. This is Nokia’s embedded in-car navigation service. Using cached content, Nokia says it’s the first on the market that provides comprehensive mapping data even when a user doesn’t have a data connection. This includes turn by turn voice guided navigation in 95 countries, as well as 2D, 3D and satellite map views, with street-level imagery. Van de Klashorst tells me that Nokia is now also working on an SDK (yet to be released publicly) that will let third parties integrate services directly into this experience. He pointedly tells me that this will not include ads, which users they have surveyed have said are too distracting in cars. But this doesn’t rule out placing markers, for example, for a particular pizza joint when you are driving by it looking for some Italian food. Other features that are likely to come in by way of the SDK are music services and social networking services (not distracting like ads at all, right?!). Early users of this before the wider release include in-car system maker Continental, which is using them as part of its “Open Infotainment Platform.” I’d expect other app makers and navigation service companies to be added to the list soon.

HERE Auto Cloud. Like HERE Auto, this is also designed to work with and without data connections — useful for when you are in remote areas, or you are in regions where you may be roaming outside of your carrier’s network. This is Nokia’s own layer of extra services around driving — for example real-time traffic updates, helping drivers avoid congested areas, road closures or blockages that occur en route, as well as other services such as recommendations on places to eat, parking spots, information on where to charge an electric vehicle or where to find the most inexpensive fuel.

From the screenshots that Nokia provided to me, it looks like this is one of the fruits of its relationship with Foursquare:

HERE Auto Companion. This is the bridge between what Nokia is doing in the car and what it is doing outside of it. The Auto Companion, as Van de Klashorst demonstrated to me, works both on the web and as a mobile app, and it’s actually very cool: what it lets you do is create mapping instructions or take notes of a place that you’d like to visit, when you are sitting at your computer or on your phone, and then, when you get into your HERE-powered car, those data points follow you. If you start a trip in your car, and then park it, you can continue finding your way using your handset. Taking a page from the many apps that let users control what their TVs at home are recording, Nokia says that drivers can also use the app to find their car (using LiveSight augmented reality technology) and check stats for fuel levels and tire pressure. Part of this will be based on the new HALO platform, which basically will gather data using different sensors on the car. This will be used not just for app services for the consumer but to help gather more accurate information about weather in a particular place and more.

For cars that are shared between more than one person (say, in a family) each user can have his or her own interface in a vehicle:

Van de Klashorst tells me that the big idea here is to personalize those in-car experiences: “One thing that is apparent is that people have a strong relationship both with their cars and with their phones, but the in-car systems are ice cold. People cannot influence or modify or personalise them. To make them personal is a very important aspect.”

And when you think about this, it’s a potentially interesting area when you link it up with wider trends in the automotive space, such as with car sharing services like Zipcar. “With car sharing services, this car that you don’t own becomes your car. Systems like this once will be a very important part of elevating and experience to make it your own,” he notes.

Apart from the challenges of competing against other smartphone players (including Google, Apple and BlackBerry) who also have stakes in the automotive game — Apple already has integrations with several car makers and there are often rumors swirling of how this will expand over time; Google has gone so far as to create self-driving vehicles; and BlackBerry has QNX — Nokia is doing this from a position that is not without its own challenges. In Nokia’s last quarterly earnings, Here posted sales of $305 million, down 18% over last year, up 8% on the previous quarter and it remains loss-making, with a $116 million operating deficit, which is at least marginally better than the $120 million a year ago. (A HERE representative points out, however, that the division has “underlying profitability” and “strong automotive sales,” showing that it’s following through on establishing financial independence from Nokia’s smartphone business.)

Still, Nokia has in its hands a very key asset: it holds one of the biggest databases of mapping information in the world, meaning it doesn’t need to rely on third parties for it. And even with its many layoffs, it still employs hundreds of engineers that are thinking of clever ways of using that to Nokia’s advantage. Nokia has nothing to lose by trying to get out into pole position in this space at this still-early stage in the connected car revolution.