For the next 24 Houhs, google’s letting you skip the line for project Fi

Google’s all excited about the official launch of its flagship Nexus devices. We’ve reviewed the 5X and 6P and since they’re both unlocked, you get to choose your carrier.

One option? Project Fi. It’s been closed off to the world up until now, but the team is opening the gates just for the rest of the day:

The lure of Project Fi is that it intelligently connects you to the best network…be it a 4G partner or freely available Wi-Fi. I’ve been using it with the Nexus 6P and so far, so good. I even was able to get access while driving to a mountainy part of northern California this weekend.

AT&T : Connect all your devices with one number

As you buy more devices and wearables, the idea of having one phone number to connect them all is an increasingly attractive one.

AT&T is readying a service that will allow users to connect all their devices, from smartphones to wearables, with a single phone number.

The company promises that the service, called NumberSync, will allow users to send and receive texts and calls from any device using one number. A person familiar with the matter confirmed to Mashable that the service will be made possible due to changes on AT&T's existing telecom network. And unlike some similar Bluetooth-based solutions, NumberSync connectivity will function even if the user's primary mobile device with the originating number is physically nowhere near the other NumberSync-connected devices.

"Since NumberSync operates in our wireless network, it is not dependent on a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone," AT&T spokesperson David Christopher posted on the company's website on Wednesday. "Your devices don’t need to be near each other and NumberSync will work even if your primary phone is turned off or disconnected from the network.

Christopher also mentions that the service will be able to connect wearables like fitness bands and hints at possible in-car functionality. Yet no specific NumberSync devices are mentioned, and it's not clear whether the service will work across a wide array of mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

Apple offers a similar concept in the form of its Continuity feature, which allows you to make and receive calls through your Mac and iPad via your iPhone. But depending on how AT&T's service is delivered, NumberSync has the potential be much more powerful than Apple's solution.

AT&T says the first NumberSync-ready device (likely a wearable) will launch sometime this month, with at least two additional devices to come during the holiday season.

Hackers figure out how to activate Siri without talking

These hackers aren't ventriloquists, but they might have figured out something even cooler.

Researchers at the ANSSI, a French governmental agency that conducts cybersecurity research, have figured out a way to remotely and silently access mobile concierge services like Siri and Google Now, reports Wired. With microphone-equipped headphones plugged into a phone, the hackers can send radio frequency signals to sound like a person activating Siri or Google Now.

There's really nothing to worry about here if you have a phone with Siri or Google Now enabled from the lock screen; the likelihood that some malicious hacker could pull of this attack without you knowing is fairly slim.

The hackers use a laptop running a software-defined radio, an amplifier and an antenna to broadcast radio wave signals that are picked up by the cord on the headphones. The phone interprets these electrical signals as someone speaking into a microphone, giving the hackers full access to Siri functions.

Using a simplified, portable setup, the hackers can transmit phone-interpretable signals at a range of six and a half feet, with a larger setup increasing range to 16 feet. The hackers claim the smaller setup can fit and function in a backpack.

As reported by Wired the hackers describe a scenario in which this was used in a congested area to trick a number of phones into calling a paid hotline. The only other scenario we can think of would be if someone working in a public area left their phone with headphones plugged in out while stepping away from their desk. The hackers could then theoretically set up their spoofing device, but it would be much easier just to grab the person's phone and start messing with it.

The other limiting factor is that many new phones only activate concierge services when the phone's owner is talking, though a long press on the headphone's remote button will also do the same. With my iPhone 6S, Siri only turns on when I say "hey, Siri," but my desk neighbor could just as easily grab my phone and press the button to start sending texts and making calls.

While this attack isn't much of a threat to iPhone or Android owners, the method in which it was carried out is fascinating. It also serves as a reminder that lock-screen active concierge isn't all that secure; whether or not they know it, smartphone users are trading some level of security for convenience.

The researchers suggest that headphone manufactures add an extra layer of shielding to their cords, but considering the huge swath of headphone makers in the industry, this seems unlikely to ever happen.

So, not ventriloquism, but definitely cooler.

Amazon Pilots Visual, Mobile-Only Affiliate Product To Rival Skimlinks and VigLink

Amazon is testing a new service that could help it and its publishing partners drive more traffic (and, importantly, purchases) from customers on mobile devices. The pilot software is called ‘Mobile Popover’, and it is a mobile-only rival to top affiliate services Skimlinks and VigLink.

The service detects text links on a webpage to automatically surface an image-centric link — which includes details of price, description, ratings and shipping information — and tempt readers into purchasing the item. Clicking the banner takes a user to the mobile web version of Amazon’s store, from there they can open the page in the Amazon app if they have it installed on their device.

In the event that an item is purchased, the publisher is rewarded with a cut of the purchase. We don’t yet have details of the commission percentage for Mobile Popover, although it is likely to be in line with Amazon’s existing affiliate program, which pays out between one and 10 percent of each purchase depending on the type of item bought.

The integration itself is a simple Javascript additional that works for all pages. Amazon is trialling Mobile Popover with a limited group of initial partners at this point, but it looks like other partners can get involved via this link.

Mobile is a huge opportunity for online retailers, particularly when you look at Alibaba and businesses in China which did over 60 percent of their business from mobile devices on China’s largest e-commerce day.

For its part, Amazon recently revealed that “approaching” 60 percent of its Christmas 2014 holiday transactions came from mobile, but it is yet to fully transition its hugely successful business to small screens.

Indeed, last week it pulled its consumer-facing wallet app after less than a year in the market. A spokesperson told us that Amazon had “learned a great deal” from the project, but it’s fair to say it hadn’t gone as well as the company will have hoped.

Skimlinks and Viglink had a run-in with Amazon in Europe last August, when the U.S. giant stopped paying out affiliate money made from auto-tagging from webpages. Amazon’s own affiliate program includes text links, mobile banners, responsive banners and widgets — there’s also an option to integrate with third-party blogging platforms.

London-based Skimlinks was founded in 2006 and has raised over $9 million in funding to date. A newer entry to the market, four-year-old VigLink is based in San Francesco. It has raised over $27 million, including an $18 million Series C led by RRE Ventures that closed last summer.

Scholarships For Code Schools By Galvanize’s New Nonprofit Foundation

Tech education startup Galvanize is bolstering its efforts to get people into tech with the launch of the Galvanize Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that will fund scholarships to code schools and other programs that promote diversity in the tech industry.

While Galvanize proper offers boot camps and a Master’s program in San Francisco and locations in Colorado, Galvanize co-founder Lawrence Mandes says the new nonprofit arm will not just be about getting more people into its for-profit classes.

“This is about funding the pipelines that can get people into tech after or instead of traditional education programs,” Mandes told me on the phone today. He sees the foundation and the things that it plans to support as near-term compliments to programs that get computer science education into K-12 schools. “We’ll see the effects of those efforts in seven to eight years, but you can measure our effectiveness in months.”

That’s because it’ll be funding months-long programs that claim to have job-placement rates above 95 percent, as well as programs from organizations like Girls Who Code, which bring women and other under-represented minorities to coding events in order to bring some much-needed diversity to the field.

In the past, Galvanize has offered scholarships in the range of $5,000 to those interested in going through its programs, with a few rare cases where amounts went as high as $25,000 thanks to support from other organizations. With the Galvanize Foundation, Mandes says that early commitments from companies and startup founders in the tech community in the six-figure range should allow more scholarships in the $20,000 to 25,000 range.

At that amount, the foundation can start looking beyond covering (or partially covering) tuition and start addressing the cost of living for those who would like to participate in code schools. That’s key to opening up such programs to those with lower incomes: their current addressable market only allows for people who can not only afford the classes, but also take several months off from work. Helping to cover things like food and rent with scholarships opens the door for thousands of more people to be able to even consider picking up coding via one of the many code boot camps now available.

Microsoft Faces Stiff Mobile Challenge

Microsoft had a heck of week last week, didn’t it? It actually felt like it got its groove back with HoloLens, its holographic virtual reality glasses, which I have to say looked way cool. It also got our attention with the Windows 10 mobile strategy, and it showed off the desktop version of Cortana, something Siri can’t do.

In spite of its good, dare I say, great week, I have to wonder if Microsoft can make any headway in mobile. As of now, its tablet and phone marketshare numbers are simply abysmal. Microsoft is so far back in the marketshare pack, it’s going to take a huge leap to move the needle enough to matter.

That’s not to say that the company doesn’t have a mobile strategy. Satya Nadella has gotten well-deserved credit for refocusing the company, and creating a much more positive image. A united screen across mobile and desktop with Windows 10 could be attractive to consumers and developers alike, both of which have yet to warm to Windows mobile. But will it be enough to lift Microsoft from its current marketshare doldrums?

Microsoft bought Nokia last year in an effort to take control of the Windows mobile platform, and is finally creating a single-platform view across mobile and desktop. That’s great, as far as it goes, but people still aren’t buying Windows phones or even enough Surface tablets –and unless that turns around, it is going to have a very difficult go of it.

Let’s Look At The Mobile Phone Numbers

The company is betting that Windows 10 is going to be its mobile salvation and finally drive people to buy these devices, but we’ve heard that before and it hasn’t happened.

In fact, the company’s global marketshare for mobile devices is falling.

Consider looking at Kantar WordPanel mobile marketshare statistics. It’s a great resource, but it won’t make Microsoft or Windows fans happy. As of November, Windows’ phone marketshare in the US was sitting at a measly 3 percent. That’s after years of pushing the platform, and getting great product placement in movies movies and TV shows. What’s more, the number is actually down from 5 percent at the beginning of 2014.

I can hear fans of the platform sputtering: “But what about Europe?” What about it? Consider these November Kantar numbers:

  • England was sitting at just 7 percent, down from a high of 12 percent in August, 2013.
  • France? It had 9.8 percent, down from a high of 12.5 percent in October, 2013.
  • Even Italy, a Microsoft stronghold, was 12.7 percent, down from a high of 17.1 percent in December, 2013.

The trend is down all around and it doesn’t bode well for the company’s mobile initiatives. I know Microsoft will argue that once Windows 10 hits the streets and people see how well it integrates across mobile and desktop, this is all going to change, but it’s hard to see these numbers turning around enough to make a significant difference. You could in fact, argue that at this point, the market has hardened and Microsoft is going to have a tough time pushing through iOS/Android supremacy.

In case you’re wondering in today’s quarterly earnings report, Microsoft reported selling 10.5M Lumias. That’s up from 9.3M last quarter, and while up is better than down, it’s an incremental increase at best.

Surface Pro 3 To The Rescue?

Surface Pro 3 with blue keyboardPutting Windows Phone aside, we’re left with the Surface Pro 3, a tablet-laptop hybrid that Microsoft loves to point to as a big win, and it’s done well, no doubt. By most reports, it can and should feel good about it. Yet in spite of impressive 67 percent growth in 2014, the company marketshare remains miniscule.

The Surface generated a healthy $1.1B in revenue in today’s report, up from $908M the previous quarter, but it still has miles to go before it catches iPad in second place, never mind Android in first.

That’s why Microsoft’s Windows 10 show was so important to the company. It gave them another opportunity to get sustained attention and it didn’t waste it. In fact, Microsoft actually wowed us a little bit, but don’t be fooled by a few minutes of HoloLens. As cool as it was, it’s never going to generate the kind of lift iPhone gives Apple or Android has given Google and by extension Samsung.

Don’t get me wrong, I was dazzled by HoloLens too. I get it, but I also understand that to truly compete in the next decade it’s going to take more than a holographic face computer.

The Harsh Mobile Reality

Microsoft HoloLens user interacting with a holographic globe.Microsoft appears to have done what it needed to do, perhaps something it should have done long ago. It created a single view from phone to tablet to desktop. Unifying the operating system was an important step, but it’s going to take some monstrous gains in mobile marketshare, especially for phones, for it to matter.

The reality is if it can’t attain significant marketshare, it can’t attract developers. It’s really not going to matter how easy it is to develop across desktop and mobile if the developer class isn’t paying attention. It’s also important to remember that the Windows 10 story is going to appeal to companies more than consumers, and the phone choice today for the most part is in the hands of consumers. Most companies aren’t buying employees phones anymore, and most consumers aren’t paying attention to Windows phones.

That means it would take a consumer sea change to make significant gains, and that doesn’t seem likely in its current market state, no matter how well integrated Windows 10 is across devices.

Apple to allow Chinese security inspections of iPhones

Apple will allow the Chinese government to perform security inspections on its products to quell concerns that they are used for surveillance of Chinese citizens, according to reports.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has allegedly conceded to requests from China's State Internet Information Office to perform tests on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers so that they can continue being sold in the country, The Telegraph reported.

Cook reportedly had a meeting with Lu Wei, the department's director, according to the Beijing News. Roughly translated, Cook is said to have told Wei that, although there were rumors to the contrary, Apple has never had any security backdoors or provided customer data to third parties.

Wei reportedly responded that Apple's products would have to pass security audits performed by Chinese officers in order to ensure they were OK for customer use.

China is one of the biggest markets for Apple products, but its government has a history of distrust for the Cupertino-based company. In fact, China has thrown out allegations at more than just Apple, such as IBM and Cisco.

In September of last year, shortly after the new iPhones were announced, Apple reassured the Chinese government that the devices do not have security backdoors that could be used by U.S. organizations to collect Chinese data.

A state-run television program in China accused Apple last summer of tracking people's locations in China through the "frequent locations" feature on the phone. The report said that "those with access to that data could gain knowledge of China's economic situation or 'even state secrets.'"

Apple, of course, quickly rebuffed the allegations, saying that Frequent Locations are encrypted and not backed up on any sort of virtual cloud. Plus, the feature can be turned off.

"Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," reads a July statement. "We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It’s something we feel very strongly about."

China has had its share of finger-pointing, too. In May of last year, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five members of the Chinese military for allegedly hacking American businesses. It was the first time that the department had charged a foreign government for cybercrimes.

The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus went on sale in China in mid-October. Apple did not reply to Mashable's request for comment.

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