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in « Weekly recap »,
 February 19 2016

Weekly Recap: Apple vs FBI, a Brand New Crop of Android Phones, R.I.P. Picasa, is Samsung Big Brother?, and a "child's play" 3D Printer

Apple vs FBI


A Tim Cook letter addressed to all Apple customers made the rounds a lot this week, supposedly as a "call for public discussion" on data security. The facts: after the recent San Bernardino killing spree, US authorities asked Apple to provide data, a request to which the company said it responded promptly. But despite this cooperation, the accused terrorist's iPhone could not be unlocked, and the Cupertino company now affirms that the FBI wants to push further and force Apple to create a new version of the iPhone OS that bypasses several security features, and could be installed on a seized phone during an investigation. Apple vemehently opposes the idea, which it calls "a backdoor to the iPhone", and which it thinks could pose serious security threats if placed in the wrong hands. Turning to the public to join this legal fight is, as far as we know, quite unusual in the wonderful world of technology. Many analysts doubt that Apple will be able to oppose the law for very long though. To be continued...


A Big Week for Android


Rare occurence: during the upcoming annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, nearly all the major Android smartphone manufacturers are about to launch a new model simultaneously. Samsung will officially unveil (even while several leaks already happened) its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which if the rumours are right, should be "very similar" to last year's S6 model... But with a few new interesting features, like a pressure-resistant screen and VR capabilities. LG will launch the G5, which was surrounded by more secret than usual, but will include a "Always on" display, whatever that means (no one knows, apparently). The Chinese trio manufacturers Huawei, ZTE et Alcatel will also present their phones, as well as Indian company Levono. Although still small, these latter players are increasingly "ones to watch", especially in a global context.


The Death of Picasa

Who remembers the good old days, before or at the beginning of social media, when digital photos were shared on Picasa? After nearly 15 years of loyal service, Google just decided to kill the platform. Things evolved so rapidly that it may be difficult now to understand the importance of Picasa, but the product really was ahead of its time (even coming before Flickr), and sparked a small revolution in the way people thought about photos and managed them. Unsurprisingly, Google wants to focus on Google Photos alone. Support will stop about a month from now, and users will receive a new space to host their Picasa albums by May. R.I.P.


Better not Speak in Front of a Samsung TV


Very surprising: Samsung revealed to users of its smart TVs that if they exchange personal or sensitive information close to their device, the TV could capture this data and send it to third parties. Parrallels with George Orwell's 1984 novel were quick to emerge, and many questioned Samsung's apparent lack of transparence. After the stir, the Korean conglomerate specified that in order for the TV to record voice or other data, the Voice Recognition feature had to be enabled beforehand. Plus it also identified voice recognition specialist Nuance Communications as the third party in question, to which data is sent. According to Samsung, this data is neither stored nor sold. Reassuring, or not?


A Toy 3D Printer


Among the most talked about gadget at the recent New York Toy Fair: the ThingMaker, a 3D printer made by Mattel, which will cost about $300 US and will make it possible for kids to make their own toys. Even if it's not the only "affordable" domestic 3D printing product, its distinctive feature rather lies in its ease of use. The printer works with an app (Android and iOS) developed with Autodesk, offering an interface some testers called "ridiculously intuitive". Children can use templates or even create their own designs. An integration with existing Mattel franchises (Hot Wheels, Barbie..) is also reportedly in the works. Once the "toy" is saved, the STL file is automatically sent to the printer, and the object is built in a few hours. The ThingMaker will arrive on the market in the fall; we know of a lot of "kids" (of all ages!) who will be thrilled by the news.

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