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Phone location tracking is frighteningly real: how to protect yourself – SlashGear

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A new report reveals something that we probably already know, perhaps in jest. Corporations are out to get us and our privacy is pretty much a commodity already. It does, however, demonstrate the implications of that massive covert surveillance and the social and legal structures that empower or at least permit such activities. While it is admittedly difficult to escape that sad reality without shunning technology altogether, there are still a few things you can do to minimize the data that others can gather about you.

Cyberpunk starts now

The cyberpunk genre mostly revolves around a futuristic dystopia where large corporations either directly run the world or pull the strings, monitoring and controlling everyone’s lives. That doesn’t sound futuristic at all and is pretty much what we’re starting to experience today, though admittedly to a lesser degree.

The New York Times’ latest report slaps that reality on readers’ faces, revealing just how much about them can be gleaned even from supposedly anonymized and protected location data, most of them coming from our smartphones. Granted, location alone might not be enough to identify individuals but they can be interpolated almost too easily with data that is publicly available, some from social media.

Making matters worse is how the entire world seems to conspire to allow this violation of privacy that is protected by most Constitutions around the world. From corporate culture to slow-paced legal development, users are left to fend for themselves instead of relying on those that should be keeping their welfare in mind. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to do and the biggest hurdle is actually making
the conscious effort to make changes.

The Caveat

As mentioned, the world seems to conspire against people’s privacy and it’s almost impossible to be 100% free. Even if you ditch your smartphone, signing up for any account and even just using an Internet-connected computer can already leak some data about your location. Telephone companies, for example, will always be able to know your location to some degree, even if you use a regular feature phone.

There isn’t a panacea but we do have means to at least mitigate the effects of smartphone location tracking. And it starts with knowing what your phone can do and what apps should not do.

Flip that switch

Fortunately, smartphone platforms do have facilities to curb the number of data apps and services gather, particular about location. Both Android and iOS can do more than just turn location use on and off for the entire phone. They also allow users to toggle location permissions on a per-app basis.

This does, of course, require digging into each app and turning location permissions for those that have no business knowing your location. Operating systems have introduced such granular permission systems to minimize apps’ access to unnecessary data and hardware but some still try to get away with what they can.

That said, flipping that switch may have unwanted effects, depending on the app in question. Some apps, like maps and navigation, naturally need access to location to even work while others have optional features that use location, like geotagging photos and posts. There will always be apps that make it sound like location data is critical to its function and will break without it, whether or not it actually makes sense. In that case, it might be best to report such behavior to Google or Apple.

Online services are also culpable of storing location data, with Google and Facebook as the biggest offenders. They do have settings to wipe your location data and stop recording it altogether, but getting there can sometimes require more work than necessary, being buried beneath settings and options. Unfortunately, that inertia is one of the biggest problems users face when protecting themselves.

Awareness and Vigilance

With corporations seeking to profit from your privacy and governments failing to keep up with fast-paced development, users really have little choice but to do the work of shielding themselves and protecting their privacy. No matter how simple it may be, however, the cognitive burden of simply doing so is enough to discourage people from doing so. Many have resorted to justifying the current practice as something in exchange for free and sometimes convenient services. It doesn’t have to be but until modern society undergoes a massive revolution, people will have to fight to keep that power in their own hands.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Teardown Video Reveals Difficulty in Replacing Battery and Display – Gadgets 360

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra teardown video has been posted on YouTube, highlighting the difficulties in replacing its AMOLED screen. Changing the battery pack of the Galaxy S21 Ultra is also hard, as the teardown shows the requirement of quite an effort to pry the battery off. The teardown video also provides a detailed view of the components powering the latest Samsung flagship. The phone carries optical image stabilisation (OIS) support on three of its cameras. The Galaxy S21 Ultra also appears to have an enhanced thermal management.

The nearly nine-minute teardown video posted by YouTube channel PBKreviews begins with removing the back of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra by applying some heat. The back features a glass construction, though the camera housing is made of metal.

Removing the back panel of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is just identical to how one can remove the back of the regular Galaxy S21, that also received a teardown treatment by the same YouTube channel recently. However, there are some major differences between both phones in terms of internals and their assembly.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s top speaker come without foam-ball insulation that’s there on the Galaxy S21. Foam balls on the speaker assembly are believed to help produce louder sound with more coverage. Samsung, however, didn’t provide that tweak on the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

In comparison with the vanilla Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra also lacks a detachable screen connector cable. The phone instead has a cable fixed with the screen.

“If you need to replace the screen, you would have to take the backplate off, remove the top cover, and disconnect the screen cable from the main board,” the narrator in the teardown video said. “And then you’d remove the speaker assembly on the bottom. You’d heat up the front of the phone where the screen is, and you pry your old screen off.”

The battery of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is also fixed with adhesive and doesn’t include any pull tabs to help you remove the battery pack.

“This battery is really difficult to pry off,” the narrator said. “I had to use some isopropyl alcohol to loosen up the adhesive underneath so I could pry it off.”

Samsung appears to have deployed graphite on the NFC antennae and motherboard to provide better heat dissipation. The Exynos 2100 processor and RAM also have a thermal paste on top, as per the video.

The YouTube channel has given the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra a repairability score of six out of 10 — given the struggle it requires in removing the battery and the screen. The repairability score is notably lower than the one given to the Galaxy S21 – 7.5 – as the Galaxy S21 Ultra comes with a glass back that is more difficult to remove, compared to a plastic back.


What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Galaxy S21: Samsung copies Apple again, and both Android and iPhone fans suffer – CNET

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Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line no longer comes with a power adapter, headphones or microSD card slot. 


Drew Evans/CNET

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line has plenty going for it. The displays have been improved, the processor has gotten faster and the cameras have been upgraded to take sharper photos and videos. And at a $200 cheaper starting price than the Galaxy S20, they are once again an enticing alternative to Apple’s latest iPhones. 

But in seemingly taking a page out of Apple’s playbook, Samsung is scaling back on a few things. There is once again no headphone jack, the microSD card slot is gone and a fast charger is no longer included in the box. For some, it’s like Samsung is copying Apple in all the wrong ways.

Sure, some of these changes should no longer be a surprise. Last year’s Galaxy S20 line didn’t have a headphone jack, and most pricier phones have said goodbye to the port as companies push Bluetooth earbuds and headphones. (Samsung unsurprisingly unveiled its latest $200 Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds at the same event as the S21.) This year Samsung, like Apple with the iPhone 12, went a step further and also removed the included wired headphones, which makes sense as it clearly wants people to buy its wireless buds. 

It is, however, giving up to $200 in Samsung Credit for those who are preordering its new phones directly from Samsung.com. The credit can be used toward buying a pair of Buds Pro or other accessories, softening the blow for at least early adopters.  

The microSD card slot was also seemingly on borrowed time. Samsung already has dropped the expandable storage option on its foldable phones, and a number of other manufacturers have turned away or long ignored the capability. Apple and Google never supported microSD storage expansion for their phones, while OnePlus only has the option available for its more affordable Nord series. 

“Over time, SD card usage has markedly decreased on smartphones because we’ve expanded the options of storage available to consumers,” the South Korean electronics giant said in a statement. The company notes that its phones come with at least 128GB of storage while also supporting 5G and Wi-Fi 6E for faster wireless transfers to and from cloud storage platforms like Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Drive

While I can understand why this is frustrating for some power users, the idea of losing the microSD card slot never really bothered me. I also do appreciate that the base storage option is 128GB across the board, not 64GB like on Apple’s iPhone 12 and 12 Mini.


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So long, included fast charger 

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Samsung’s following Apple’s leading and dropping the charger from the box. 


Samsung

What I’ll really miss, however, is the power adapter. 

Apple kicked this “trend” off last year when it announced that it would no longer be including a charging brick with its latest iPhones. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said at the time that removing the products from the box will be better for the environment because it cuts down on waste (though, as some analysts pointed out, there may have been a nice financial benefit on the side to cash in on accessory sales). 

Apple’s 5-watt USB chargers that have been included with most iPhones for years are largely wasteful in 2021, ending up in a drawer or staying in the box. It would’ve been great for Apple to include a faster USB-C charger as it did with the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, but in ditching the slow charger the company could pretty easily claim it is helping the environment because so many people have the same charger from various other Apple products they’ve purchased over the years. 

Read moreSamsung’s Galaxy S21 upgrades likely won’t spell an end to Galaxy FE or Note lines. Yet

Samsung, like Apple, says it is dropping the included power brick to help the environment. Federico Casalegno, Samsung’s senior vice president of experience planning and its design innovation center, explained during Thursday’s virtual press conference that “many of our users prefer to reuse their current chargers and earphones and to leave the new ones in the box, unused.” Just like Apple, Samsung is shrinking its packaging for the S21 line in a bid to reduce its footprint.

Unlike Apple’s chargers, however, Samsung’s chargers have been getting more useful to me over time as the company’s included power bricks can fast-charge devices over USB-C. For the Galaxy S20, Samsung included a 25-watt fast charger which, well, is actually pretty great. 

The company says on its website for the S21 Ultra 5G that using that same type of power adapter can recharge the Ultra’s 5,000-mAh battery in “about an hour.” 


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Any effort to help the environment and solve the growing e-waste problem should be commended, but instead of dropping features, it would’ve been great to see Samsung take the lead and embrace new technologies such as gallium nitride for its chargers. This technology not only offers a fast way to charge but also is more energy-efficient, wasting less heat compared to traditional silicon chargers. 

If it coupled offering newer, faster chargers with the S21 with an incentive of an extra few bucks for people to trade in their older chargers with their phones, it could’ve flipped the conversation. By recycling plenty of older chargers and giving users a more energy-efficient way to power their fancy new phones, Samsung would still be helping the environment while not taking away a useful feature from consumers. 

And it’s not like these new gallium nitride chargers are overly expensive. A new 30-watt USB-C GaN charger from AmazonBasics is available for less than $20, roughly the same price Samsung charges for a new 25-watt power adapter on its website. 

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Redmi’s first gaming phone is coming this year with MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200

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Xiaomi’s Redmi sub-brand is largely known for its stellar Redmi Note series and Redmi series. Spread across the early budget and mid-ranges, these phones are often the epitome of value you can get for every bit of money you spend. Xiaomi reserves the higher end specifications for phones under its Mi branding, but that could change this year, as Redmui’s first gaming smartphone is coming with the new MediaTek Dimensity 1200.

Redmi’s General Manager in China, Mr. Lu Weibing, has revealed on Weibo (via AndroidAuthority) that the brand will launch its first flagship gaming smartphone. The statements were made within the context of the Dimensity 1200 launch and how Redmi will be the first OEM to ship a phone with the new processor, strongly hinting that this is the chip that could be powering the gaming phone. As is the Redmi philosophy, the pricing is expected to be aggressive, making the entire proposition very enticing. It’s unclear if the first phone with Dimensity 1200 would be the gaming smartphone or something within the Redmi K-series lineup.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the Dimensity 1200 features the same GPU (ARM Mali-G77MC9) as the Dimensity 1100, Dimensity 1000 Plus, and Dimensity 1000. There are other changes that do benefit a gaming smartphone, such as support for 168Hz refresh rate at FHD+, as well as support for ray tracing through software. There’s also MediaTek HyperEngine 3.0 support on the new chip, but the company did not specifically detail what this bump up in versioning brings to the table, and if the same could also make its way to the older Dimensity flagship chips as they bear the same GPU.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear is that OEMs have a lot more faith in MediaTek’s Dimensity lineup than ever before, enough to dedicate a few firsts for their brand to the new flagship chips. While it remains to be seen how the Dimensity 1200 measures up to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and Samsung Exynos 2100, it does appear promising as a value performer.

 

Source: – XDA Developers

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