Better Re battery pack gives new life to old phone batteries

By Heidi Hoopes

If you’re like a lot of phone junkies and replace your phone as soon as the latest thing comes along, you’ll know that often the hardware in the old phone is perfectly fine, even the battery. But fancier new screens and more powerful processors mean that battery life usually remains a problem, making battery packs a popular accessory. Enlighten’s Better Re lets you get some more use out of your old phone’s battery, by allowing it to slot into an adjustable external battery charger for your new phone.

Enlightened has already received awards for the design of its “upcycling power pack”, which it is now seeking to fund through Kickstarter. The idea is simple: create a case to house an old cellphone battery and create a sleek external charger. Go crazy and stack multiple expansion packs connected via magnet to provide even more charge capacity. The case adjusts to accommodate batteries of sizes up to 58.5 x 97.8 x 6.5 mm, which Enlighten says is the biggest battery currently on the market.

Enlighten argues that the average turnover of a cellphone is 1.3 years, while after two years of use, a battery is still around 80 percent efficient. Additionally, many mobile phone users who have a phone with a removable battery buy extra batteries to ensure they aren’t caught short. While reports from Recon Analytics in February 2015 suggest that mobile phone turnover rates are slowing, from 22.4 months in 2013 to an anticipated 28.4 months this year, there are still a lot of extra batteries out there.

bat

How much charge you could get off a Better Re will of course depend on the capacity and condition of your old battery (for example, a Galaxy Note battery is 2,500 mAH), as well as what rate your current phone can charge at.

With an output of 5 V and 2 A, the company says the Better Re should charge an iPhone 6, with its 1,810 mAh battery, in just under 55 minutes, while an iPad Air 2 and its 7,340 mAh battery will take just over 220 minutes. A Galaxy S6 (2,550 mAh) and Galaxy Note 4 (3,220 mAh) should take 76 and 96 minutes, respectively.

If you don’t use phones with removable batteries such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy models, an LG3, or a Note, Enlighten has a pledge package that includes a recycled phone battery. It also plans to produce batteries of its own.

The Kickstarter campaign offers the Better Re for a US$39 pledge, with an additional $20 for an expansion case. If everything goes to plan, delivery is estimated for November 2015.

Enlightened’s video pitch for the Better Re can be viewed below.

Source: Enlightened

QromaScan scans and tags photos with an iPhone and your voice

By Simon Crisp

QromaScan is a simple scanning setup which might mean you finally get around to digitizing and organizing those boxes of old photos you’ve got gathering dust in the attic. The system, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, combines the camera and voice recognition of an iPhone, with a green-screen lightbox to make it quick and easy to produce digital files of printed photos.

We’ve all done it – taken a digital photo of a printed one because we can’t be bothered to scan it in properly. However, the resulting file typically suffers glare, is skewed, and lacks the digital tags to enable you to find it easily again. QromaScan attempts to address these issues by controlling the photo-scanning environment, while being able to scan and tag images in two to three seconds.

Key to ensuring quality scans is the QromaScan Lightbox, a fold-away lightbox into which printed photos are placed, while an iPhone running the QromaScan app is positioned on top. Inside, 12 cool white LED lights provide illumination, while a chroma green material isolates the photo for automatic cropping. Because the distance from camera to photo is a constant, focus should always be spot-on, and voice control illuminates the risk of camera movement and makes scanning faster.

Voice recognition is also used to tag images with metadata as the photos are being scanned. Users say sentences like “Qroma, the date is August 1st, 1957, the place is Honolulu International Airport” while the camera is taking a photo, and the right date and location tags are automatically created in the EXIF data of the image. Names of people in the photos can also be logged as IPTC keywords, with the app able to recognize names in your contacts list, or manually-entered ones.

scan

The tags not only make finding images easy in the QromaScan app, but because the metadata is stored in standardized fields, they can be accessed in other programs like Lightroom and iPhoto. Basic editing is possible via Aviary photo editing tools, and a Back Scan function allows users to also record anything that’s been written on the rear of the image. While currently limited to iOS, an Android version of the QromaScan app is said to be in the works.

QromaScan is currently on Kickstarter and has until May 31st to hit its target of US$20,000. An early bird pledge of $35 is currently enough to secure you a QromaScan Lightbox, though the price will rise to $40 and then $45 if those are snapped up. Should funding be successful, kits should start shipping in July.

You can check out the Kickstarter video for QromaScan below.

Sources: Qroma, Kickstarter

8 Android security tips for IT, corporate users

1) Don’t root that Android device

“To do significant damage in the mobile world, malware needs to act on devices that have been altered at an administrative level,” according to Dionisio Zumerle, principal research analyst at Gartner. “The most obvious platform compromises of this nature are ‘jailbreaking’ on iOS or ‘rooting’ on Android devices …

While these methods allow users to access certain device resources that are normally inaccessible … they also put data in danger.”

2) Don’t overlook Android security or focus only on malware

“Perhaps one of the biggest risks of mobile malware is the fact that mobile malware, in itself, is not yet abundant,” says Domingo Guerra, president and cofounder of Appthority. “This creates a false sense of security in government and enterprise organizations.”

Guerra also identified a number of additional Android risks, including “corporate data exfiltration, poor app development practices, mismanagement of user names and passwords, poor implementation of encryption, and data harvesting and sharing for marketing purposes.

“These risks are often overlooked by shortsighted, malware-only security strategies,” Guerra says.

3) Don’t install Android software from unofficial app stores

“Only install apps from the Google Play store that are from known and trusted developers,” says Terry May, an Android developer with Detroit Labs. “It would also be a best practice to take advantage of the multiple users feature in Android and have a user account that is just for enterprise.”

4) Pay attention to Android app permission requests

Reading an app’s access requests is critical, according to Mark Huss, senior consultant at SystemExperts. For example, a flashlight app doesn’t need access to services that cost you money (such as SMS messaging), system tools, your call list or any personal information, network communication or location service, Huss says.

5) Always keep Android software and firmware updated

“Always check for available firmware updates and patches and download the latest version if possible,” says Gleb Sviripa, an Android developer at KeepSolid. “The newer the version is, the fewer the chances that hackers can attack your device.”

6) Install security and VPN apps

It’s simple to find a plethora of security apps for Android. Look for apps that scan for malware and block apps from non-approved sources, according to Geoff Sanders, cofounder and CEO of LaunchKey. Disk encryption should be enabled, and apps that have “overreaching access to potentially sensitive data” should be denied, he says.

When surfing the Internet, Android devices should be protected with virtual private network (VPN) software such as VPN Unlimited, Sviripa says.

7) Organizations should set and enforce clear access policies

Companies need to be clear about the sensitive materials that users can access via mobile devices and ensure those devices have “the right infrastructure in place to protect against mobile threats,” according Swarup Selvaraman, senior product manager at Dell SonicWALL.

8) The four basic tenets of Android security

Troy Vennon, director of Pulse Secure’s Mobile Threat Center, says enterprise mobile security boils down to following four essential steps: Disallow rooted and jailbroken devices; ensure that devices are protected by passwords; keep devices updated; and require users to connect through a VPN.

CIO.com

Radio signals can be used to boost cell-phone battery life

Ohio State University researchers are working with startup Nikola Labs to commercialize the technology

Cell phones are constantly transmitting radio signals, whose energy can also be used to boost the battery life of mobile devices.

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed circuitry that converts radio signals from a handset into energy, which is then fed back to the device’s battery. The researchers say the technology can increase the battery life of mobile devices by up to 30 percent.

The OSU researchers are working with startup Nikola Labs to commercialize the technology, which they say can be easily implemented in cell-phone cases, and in June will launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund its continued development.

Nikola Labs pitched the concept of an energy-harvesting iPhone 6 case based on the technology at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this month. Nikola Labs estimates the case will be priced at $99.

Limitations in batteries have sparked an interest in energy-harvesting technologies to power battery-free wearables, sensors, implants and other devices. Researchers at universities and technology companies are looking for ways to convert body heat, motion, RF signals and ambient light to energy.

The technology developed by OSU has an antenna to capture the radio signals and a rectifier to convert them from AC into DC power, which is used to recharge a battery. OSU claims the circuitry can squeeze microwatts of power out of radio signals.

The technology kicks into action when signals are transmitted from a mobile device’s radio, which itself can be a battery hog because a certain amount of energy is needed to maintain a high-quality signal with a cell-phone tower. However, OSU says its technology siphons off enough power to boost battery life without hurting the quality of phone conversations or data connections.

ComputerWorld

3 Money-Saving Apps That Won’t Cost You a Dime

Entrepreneur Staff

For some people, to say times are tight financially is an understatement. A recent Bankrate survey revealed that three out of five Americans are only one medical emergency or unexpected car repair away from emptying their savings, if they have any savings in the first place.
Part of the reason is that many of us don’t take the time to properly budget — especially not the slow, inconvenient old-school way, via pen and paper. And we all know how well tracking cash in our heads works out. It generally doesn’t.

The good news: It’s never too late to master your finances and start saving. That’s where today’s web and mobile financial apps come in handy, making it easier and faster to scrimp and save than ever before, sometimes automatically.

Here are three of our favorite free apps to help you start saving money now.

  1. Digit

digit

If you’re among the one in three Americans who hasn’t saved a single penny for retirement, Digit aims to get you stashing cash pronto. It’s a web- and texting-based digital piggy bank app that “automates your savings so you don’t have to think about it.” We like the sound of that.
Digit dials into your checking account (with your permission) and studies your income history and spending habits. Using an algorithm, it then crunches the data and figures out how much you can afford to save. Every two to three days, the Google Ventures-backed tool transfers small amounts of cash from your checking account (typically between $1 and $150) and funnels it to an FDIC-insured Digit savings account, notifying you all the while via SMS texts.

The startup guarantees that it will “never transfer more money than you can afford.” That way, you need not worry about overdrawing your checking account.

Digit users can access their nest eggs 24/7/365 via text message. Transfers are free, unlimited and have no minimums. The only drawback is that you won’t accrue interest on your savings as digit accounts aren’t set up that way. But, hey, when you hit your savings goals, Digit texts you cheeky congratulatory messages featuring GIFs of killer whales and Bill Murray. That’s something to look forward to, right?

  1. RetailMeNot

reatail

Sure, growing your savings is great, but who doesn’t want to save some dough on their next shopping spree? This free coupon app — spun off from its popular namesake website — scours the web for deals and coupons from more than 50,000 retailers. It then delivers them as barcode scannable and printable digital coupons that you can redeem right from your smartphone screen.

You can also use RetailMeNot to set up customizable notifications so you’ll always be on top of the latest in-store and online deals. Major retailers featured on the site include Amazon, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Target, Staples and more. The app also tracks several national chain restaurants — including Papa John’s, KFC, Chili’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster — for special deals and discounts.

To discover deals, you can either browse retailers by category (Accessories, Automotive, Beauty, Books, etc.) or by using the app’s keyword search. The visually simple app also has a helpful “Nearby” map feature so that you can see the deals closest to your location (per your device’s GPS coordinates). RetailMeNot is available for iOS and Android devices.

  1. GasBuddy

gas

While you’re out shopping, you might as well save a few bucks at the gas pump, right?  Every cent saved is another penny you can put back into your budget (uh, and you do have a budget, don’t you?).
GasBuddy, a free user data-driven app, can help you cut down on your gasoline costs by directing you to gas stations that sell the cheapest gas near you. The best part, other than saving on gas, is that GasBuddy does this in a fun, gamified way, similar to Waze, hooking you up with points and snazzy new car icons as you report gas prices. Also, the more prices you report, the better shot you have of gracing the GasBuddy leaderboard.

Available for iOS and Android devices, the app draws on user-supplied gas price information to “drive” you to the lowest gas prices in your area, based on your device’s GPS location. The prices are displayed on a map, but you can also search for them by city or ZIP code.

Apple Accidentally Posts Photo Of New iPhone

Forbes

Well this is embarrassing…
Apple famed as the world’s most secretive technology company, has accidentally posted photos of a new, unknown iPhone straight to its Apple Store website.
Interestingly the shot comes as a direct result of Apple launching its new Lightning Dock with the last photo in the listing showing what appears to be an iPhone 5C, but one which clearly sports a Touch ID fingerprint sensor (old vs new comparison shot on page 2).
Since the iPhone 5C doesn’t currently have Touch ID, it appears we are looking at its successor – possibly the heavily rumoured iPhone 6C.
There is good and bad news about this.

6c

New iPhone 5C/6C shown with clear Touch ID home button – Image credit Apple

The Good News

Such a phone suggests Apple is very likely to continue its so-called ‘budget’ C range and, in doing so, also continue with a range of 4-inch iPhones. This will please loyal fans who aren’t tempted by the ranges’ move to larger screens.

Furthermore any new iPhone C model is almost certain to get a decent specification boost. The current iPhone 5C is based on the discontinued iPhone 5, so it would make sense for the new model to be based on the iPhone 5S which delivers nearly twice the performance of the iPhone 5, an improved camera and jumps to a 64-bit chipset – uniting the current range.

Perhaps even more important, in Apple’s eyes, is that equipping an iPhone 5C/6C with Touch ID provides greater security and opens up a new Apple Pay revenue stream (NFC seems a likely companion).

In fact crowbarring new technology into devices is not without precedent at Apple. The company famously launched the 4th generation iPad in November 2012, just eight months after the third gen iPad. The only difference was generation four added the new Lightning port.

As this is an annual refresh, we shouldn’t expect anything quite so cynical here.

Then again there is bad news…

The Bad News

The flipside is that the continuation of the iPhone C range appears the final nail in the coffin to a fully fledged, premium 4-inch iPhone 6S (necessary camera boost et al).

Such a move had been ruled out already by a number of credible leaks and reports from key Apple analysts, but it appears the future for 4-inch iPhones is as second class devices. A shame considering the logic I think a ‘small, medium and large’ (4-inch, 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch) high end line-up would make.

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Apple’s new iPhone 5C/6C (left) with Touch ID vs the current iPhone 5C – Image credit Apple

Timeframe

So when can we expect Apple to launch these new models? Reports are they could receive early launches, though I think that would seem unnecessary given Apple’s current dominance of the premium market with the existing generation.

With Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) starting on 8 June and iOS 9 expected to be the main attraction, we may well get a significant new hints soon…

Update: Apple has now pulled the photo and replaced it with a standard shot of the current iPhone 5C. It chose not to discredited the photo, which traditionally is a strong sign of authenticity.

How the iPad can get its groove back

Back in 2010, the iPad represented a sort of mystical missing piece meant to bridge two very different words. On one side, the ultra-mobile iPhone offered great potential despite its limits, and on the other, the powerful Mac had a mature capable platform but was nowhere near as portable. The iPad was meant to fit between them, offering a desktop-style experience in a mobile package.

To say the iPad was a hit is an understatement. It instantly became the fastest product to reach every major milestone all the way up to 250 million sales–no small feat when you consider it followed things like the iPod, iPhone and iMac. Even now, the iPad is still the quickest seller in Apple’s history.

But there’s been a downward trend of late. The iPhone is hotter than ever, but iPad sales have significantly sputtered, falling nearly 25 percent when compared to last year. But that doesn’t mean the iPad can’t have a revival.

Force of nature

Right out of the gate, the iPad had to overcome a fair amount of criticism, and the biggest objection was its similarity to the iPhone. It wasn’t just the single-button design—the iPad ran an operating system nearly identical to the iPhone’s and didn’t introduce a single new feature, unless you count the ability to rotate the home screen to work in landscape mode.

And five years later, not much has changed. The problem isn’t so much that the iPad feels like a large iPhone. It’s that there aren’t enough compelling features—or any, to be perfectly honest—to separate it from its smaller sibling. From the Retina display to Touch ID, every great feature has gotten its start on the iPhone, and it often takes a generation or two to appear on the tablet. And once it does, there’s nothing bigger or better about it. Force Touch would be even better on the iPad than the iPhone.

Each generation of iPhone introduces a features that makes us want it, but not many iPad models have been must-haves. iPad Air came close, but even with its slimmed-down case and toned bezels, it lacked a real killer feature (like Touch ID from the iPhone 5s, for example) to push it over the top. If Apple wants the iPad to be a biennial product like the iPhone, we need more reasons to upgrade beyond better comfort and weight.

This year, that could be Force Touch—the combination of multi-touch and the iPad’s large screen could bring the technology to another level. Even if Apple were to bring it to the iPhone 6s first, Force Touch on the iPad could offer a greater experience, with taptic feedback while typic and floating contextual menus that bring options and palettes to our fingertips.

Task manager

If the iPad Air 3 lacks any killer new hardware features, what about special software capabilities? It seems pretty clear that Apple isn’t going to release a hybrid operating system anytime soon, but iOS doesn’t have to be as limiting as Apple makes it. Year after year, Apple has stopped short of adding iPad-only features, and as iOS matures, very little about it feels as though it was built with a tablet-sized screen in mind.

The most obvious change is multitasking. As it stands, multitasking on iOS amounts to little more than switching between apps via the carousel. It’s a fine solution (made even quicker on the iPad with the five-finger “claw” gesture), but it pales in comparison to multitasking on OS X. It’s one of the starkest differences between the way we work on our Macs and our tablets; something as simple as copying text or comparing images requires several steps on the iPad, and the constant back-and-forth motion stymies any real attempt at multitasking.

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Apps like Duet Display make us wish the iPad could multitask like the Mac.

It’s not just an overdue feature, it’s probably the most sought-after one since copy and paste, and if done right, it could give the iPad a much-needed boost in the productivity department. Side-by-side apps is the obvious choice, but Apple could also tap into the sharing and action extensions in iOS to develop an entirely new way of multitasking, with in-app browsers and notepads that pop up when Force Touch is implemented.

Remote control

Despite its abilities, there’s still an overall perception that the iPad is a secondary device, used for small tasks and consuming content, rather than doing actual work. To that end, Apple recently launched an ad campaign to spotlight the myriad ways to get things done on the iPad. But to position it as a powerful device that “changes everything,” Apple should build a closer relationship between the iPad and the Mac.

We’ve seen glimpses of how nicely the two can play together with things like Handoff and Continuity, but with a screen closer in size to the one on the new MacBook than the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPad is in a unique position. Even if Apple never adapts OS X for multitouch, it could still merge the two OSes and transform the iPad into a versatile device that adapts to however you happen to be working.

mac2

AirDrop is great, but transferring a few files at a time isn’t the selling point that buit-in VNC access, file transfer, and screen sharing would be.

Bottom of Form

The key lies in embracing VNC. For years, Apple Remote Desktop has allowed IT professionals to keep tabs on dozens of Macs at once, but Apple has been reluctant to bring its monitoring app to iOS. Apps like Screens and Splashtop already offer easy ways to access your Mac’s screen, but a solution baked into iOS would seriously up the ante for the iPad, both as a production and a multitasking tool. Being able to quickly access files on your Mac would be one thing, but Apple could let you access your iPhone’s screen too, solving many of the frustrations we have with the one-app-at-a-time model.

Go Pro

For nearly a year now, rumors have pointed to a new kind of iPad—think of it as the opposite of the iPad mini. The so-called iPad Pro caters to users who want an even larger screen. A 12-inch iPad might seem like the nichiest of niche products, but when you break it down, it might not be so crazy.

How cool would it be to have one cable for charging your Mac or your iPad? (Or charging your iPad from your Mac or vice versa?)

Back in 2012 when I bought the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, I assumed it would be the last Mac I every purchased. Based on cost, future OS X support, and my heavier reliance on the iPad, I estimated a 7- to 8-year lifespan for the machine, an eternity in the tech world. It seemed logical that by 2020 there would be a new class of device to close the gap between our tablets and notebooks. If the iPad Pro is real, it could bring us closer to that seeming inevitability, requiring developers to rethink the capabilities and interfaces of their apps once again.

A giant screen would suggest a different iOS experience–perhaps one that finally ditches the icon grid or adds a Dashboard-style widget environment. But to really attract users on either side of the fence, Apple could make the iPad Pro the first iOS device to use USB-C. Using a USB-C charging port instead of Lightning would open the iPad Pro up to a world of expansive, productive and file-sharing capabilities. That alone could be reason enough for people to ditch their fully working iPads to upgrade to a new one.

And it would give its new slogan–“Everything changes with iPad”–a whole lot more meaning.

This story, “How the iPad can get its groove back” was originally published by Macworld.